Snyder sets special elections to fill Sen. Smith’s seat

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday set special elections this year to fill the seat of former state Sen. Virgil Smith, the Detroit Democrat who resigned from office and went jail for shooting up his ex-wife’s car.

The primary for the District 4 Senate seat will be Aug. 2, the same day as primaries for the state House of Representatives.

The special general election to fill the seat will be held on Nov. 8, when the general election will be held for the presidency, Congress and state House, among other offices.

“This ensures the people of the 4th Senate District are given the opportunity to select the representation they need in the Legislature as soon as possible without the burden of additional expense for the community,” Snyder said in a statement.

Smith’s resignation took effect Tuesday. He tendered his letter of resignation in late March, three days after the he began a 10-month jail sentence.

Smith was arrested in May 2015. He went to jail after pleading guilty to malicious destruction for shooting at his ex-wife’s Mercedes-Benz during the dispute.

He earned $71,685 a year as a state senator and was not legally obligated to resign despite his incarceration.

Former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, who challenged Smith in 2014 but narrowly lost to him in the Democratic primary, has said she will not run for his seat.

Smith is a Democrat who sided with Republicans key votes in recent years. With his departure, Republicans have 27 members in the Senate compared with 10 Democrats.

Smith served in the state House from 2002-08 and won election to the Senate in 2010 and 2014. His father, Virgil C. Smith, also served in the Legislature and is now a Wayne County Circuit Court judge.