Miller defeats Marrocco for Macomb County post

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep Candice Miller unseated longtime Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco after an aggressive campaign for a little-known elected office.

With nearly all county precincts reporting, results showed Miller winning 54 percent of the vote and Marrocco 45 percent.

Miller, who says she takes pride in her Macomb County roots, presented Marrocco’s first serious challenge in his 24 years on the job.

Her candidacy forced Marrocco's campaign to work harder, spend more money than previous years and air television ads that discredited Miller.

But Miller fired back with her own attacks against Marrocco and ultimately won the voters over.

Candice Miller, center, addresses the crowd after it was announced that she had been successfully elected as the Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, defeating Democratic incumbent Anthony V. Marrocco.
Candice Miller, a candidate for Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, is greeted by her nephew, Scott Snider, 20, after she arrives at her election night watch party at Mac & Ray's Banquet & Conference in Harrison Township.

In the other countywide races,

  • incumbent Democrat Eric Smith defeated Republican Michael R. Wrathell for prosecutor, 61 percent to 38 percent;
  • incumbent Democrat Anthony Wickersham defeated Republican Paul M. Smith for sheriff, 61 percent to 39 percent;
  • Republican Karen A. Spranger has a razor-thin lead over Democrat Fred Miller for clerk, 50 percent to 49 percent,
  • Republican Larry Rocca is leading incumbent Derek E. Miller, a Democrat for treasurer, 50 percent to 49 percent.

Dean Reynolds, the Clinton Township trustee charged with bribery last month, lost the Clinton Township supervisor race against incumbent Robert J. Cannon. Cannon won 58 percent of the vote and Reynolds won 41 percent.

The public works commissioner race has been full of surprises.

The first was Miller announcing her run for county drain commissioner when many thought she had her sights set on Michigan governor — a seat many political experts believed she had a shot at winning in 2018.

Drain commissioner is considerably a low profile job and many county residents don’t know its functions, experts say. The race has also been one of the most expensive in the county’s history.

The candidates raised nearly $2.5 million, according to campaign finance records. Marrocco is known as an aggressive campaign fundraiser.

Miller, too, is well-funded and also has notoriety after a longtime career in Congress plus two terms as Michigan secretary of state and a 12-year stint as Harrison Township supervisor.

She said she wants to end sewage overflows, beach closures due to E. coli and flooding damage.

“Yes I believe that if the people of Macomb County give me a chance I am going to start cleaning this situation up,” she said. “I just don’t think we need to live like this any more.”

Marrocco said he was working on solutions.

Anthony V. Marrocco, the incumbent Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, casts his ballot at the polls inside the Ray Twp. Senior Center and township offices.

His office is investing millions of dollars to upgrade the county’s aging infrastructure. For example, Marrocco said he proposed a $42 million expansion to the Chapaton Basin to stop wastewater discharges.

Marrocco also said he has spent time ensuring the water was clean, keeping sewer rates down and every year spending less than the department’s budget, which is about $6.6 million this year.

“I run it like a business,” he said in a previous interview. “I try to save everyone a little bit of money.”

Marrocco and Miller have taken some personal jabs at each other during the campaign.

Marrocco has criticized Miller for her voting record in Congress on environmental issues.

He also allegedly said during a Macomb County Chamber of Commerce interview that Miller was less qualified for the job because she didn’t finish college and got “knocked up” in high school. Miller admitted to not finishing college, but said she had her daughter after high school and was married at the time.

Marrocco didn’t remember making those statements but apologized if he did and they were offensive, according to his campaign.

Miller launched a website that blasted Marrocco for a sexual harassment lawsuit against him that was filed by former public works employee Marti Parker. According to Miller’s website, Marrocco was dating Parker when he hired her and then fired her months later.

Marrocco said Miller was bringing up “vicious lies” and trying to “distract voters from her horrible record on clean water, and her funding from the Koch brothers who have polluted the Detroit River.”

(313) 222-6793

Twitter: @NicquelTerry