Detroit Chamber endorses two Democrats for Congress in new 13th

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

The Detroit Chamber of Commerce began its primary endorsement season Monday by backing two candidates running for Congress in the new 13th District that covers most of Detroit — state Sen. Adam Hollier and attorney Portia Roberson.

The chamber's political action committee said the choice in the crowded Aug. 2 Democratic primary contest is "consequential" for Detroiters, and that the PAC was "unified" in its support for the two candidates.

The two are among a field of nine Democrats running for the open seat in the 13th District, which covers the bulk of Detroit, Hamtramck, the Grosse Pointes and Downriver communities. 

Sen. Adam Hollier and Portia Roberson

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations at the Detroit Chamber, in a statement highlighted Hollier's service in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve and in the state Legislature.

"His leadership on issues relating to economic development, public transit and voting rights make him a promising choice for Congress,” Williams said.

Williams also pointed to Roberson’s experience working in the federal government, saying it would allow her to "hit the ground running" in Washington. 

“Her experience and relationships in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors provide a skill set that would be unique to Congress and benefit all Michiganders," Williams said.

The chamber PAC's board indicated Monday it bases its endorsements on responses to a candidate survey, feedback from its members, interactions with the candidate and alignment with legislative policy priorities, including improving infrastructure and transit needs, K-12 reform, supporting small businesses and boosting voting access and security.

"The Chamber PAC knows that Detroiters deserve a member of Congress who will effectively represent the city and the 13th District, earn the esteem of their colleagues, and deliver federal solutions for Detroit and Wayne County," Williams said. "Both Hollier and Roberson — who are Detroiters themselves — fit that bill." 

Hollier is a former volunteer firefighter raised in Detroit's Northend who led fundraising in the field last quarter, bringing in more than $513,000. He previously was chief of staff for State Sen. Bert Johnson and served in Mayor Dave Bing's administration where he says he helped start the Public Lighting Authority. 

Roberson, a former prosecutor also raised in Detroit, since 2018 has served as CEO of the nonprofit Focus:Hope. She previously was director of intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Obama administration before leading a team of federal officials embedded in Detroit City Hall through Obama's Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative.

The 13th District field includes state Rep. Shri Thanedar; John Conyers III, son of the late congressman; former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo; attorney Michael Griffie; former Detroit City Council member Sharon McPhail; political activist Sam Riddle and Lorrie Rutledge.

The seat is open because U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit opted to run next door in the new 12th District after the redistricting process and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence's decision to retire at the end of her term.