Godbee suspends 13th District congressional campaign

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee on Tuesday suspended his campaign for the 13th Congressional District seat and encouraged others to follow suit in a bid to coalesce support  "behind one Black candidate well before the August primary," his campaign announced.

Godbee joined the race in January, hoping to win the Democratic primary. He was one of three Democratic candidates back then, but the field has grown to nine candidates with Godbee's withdrawal, according to federal campaign finance records. 

Former Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee announced his run for the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit on Jan. 20, 2022. Godbee said Tuesday he is suspending his campaign.

More:Ex-Detroit police chief Godbee joins race to serve 'marginalized' in 13th Congressional District

"In an election cycle as truncated as this one is proving to be, I have enough support to split the African-American vote or siphon off votes that could be codified behind a consensus candidate," Godbee said in the statement announcing his withdrawal.

The statement added that "Godbee says he hopes others in the race will also consider putting the need to have Black representation above their own ambitions."

The 13th District is represented by Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, an Arab-American Muslim who decided to run for re-election in the nearby redrawn 12th District that includes Dearborn, Southfield and part of Detroit. Tlaib has said she will remain a Detroiter.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. held the 13th District seat for 53 years before resigning in December 2017 as he faced a House ethics probe into sexual misconduct allegations. 

Some Detroiters, including Godbee, argue it's important the seat again be held by a Black person. 

"Representation matters and for a marginalized community such as African Americans and more pointedly as black people, we need competent and skillful black representation in federal legislative seats where it unequivocally matters," Godbee said in the statement.

Godbee will remain chief of staff at Triumph Church, a role he has held since 2020. 

At his introductory press conference, Godbee addressed fellow candidate Shri Thanedar, though not by name.

Thanedar is not Black, but carried Detroit in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor. Now a Detroit state representative, he has said he will spend $5 million to fund his own campaign. The last federal campaign finance reports Thanedar filed showed $5 million on hand.

"There's someone pledging $5 million," Godbee said, "but the votes of the 13th District are not for sale. 

He said he would give "$10 million worth of effort."

But two months later, Godbee thought an exit was the wiser choice.

“When I announced my candidacy for the 13th District Congressional seat, I did so with the noblest of intentions," Godbee said in the statement. "Noble intentions must however be paired with a level of maturity to understand whether your presence can add value to a campaign or be divisive."

The remaining Democratic primary field consists of John Conyers III, Conyers' son; former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo; businessman Michael Griffie; state Sen. Adam Hollier; Toni Mua; Detroit attorney Portia Roberson; and Thanedar.

The primary election will be held Aug. 2.