Yancey, Corcoran head to fall state House ballot
Harper Woods school board member Tenisha Yancey won a special Democratic primary Tuesday to help determine who will replace an ex-convict who resigned from a state House seat in Wayne County.
Yancey declared victory in the state House 1st District primary as she defeated Harper Woods attorney Pamela Sossi 33 percent to 30 percent with all precincts reporting. She said she was celebrating at Bert's Warehouse in Detroit.
Sandra Bucciero of Grosse Pointe Woods was third with 14 percent and Justin Johnson, brother of state Sen. Bert Johnson of Highland Park, trailed at 9 percent among the 11 Democrats competing.
Yancey said Tuesday night she is grateful for the support and thanked God above all else.
“This has been truly a blessing," she said.
In the Republican primary, Grosse Pointe Woods construction business owner Mark Corcoran won with 74 percent of the vote to 26 percent for William Phillips, who has a listed Ferndale post office box for his campaign.
Yancey and Corcoran will face off against Libertarian Gregory Creswell of Detroit in the Nov. 7 general election in a Wayne County district that includes parts of northeast Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores. But the district leans overwhelmingly Democratic, so Corcoran faces an uphill battle in the fall.
The seat has been vacant for nearly six months after former Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods, resigned in early February and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of making false statements of financial condition to try to obtain a $7,500 personal loan. He was sentenced to one day in jail.
Yancey said she has worked hard and credits Banks with helping knock on doors and asking his past constituents to support her even though he did not officially endorse her.
"He came out, and he knocked doors and his constituents love him," she said.
Sossi did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday night.
The district has not had a voice in the Legislature for nearly six months. But the primary election is the first step in gaining new representation in November.
Endorsements and contributions from elected officials, unions and interest groups have flowed freely to Democrats vying for the seat; a Republican has not been elected to the 1st state House District since 2006, and neither GOP candidates have reported any financial contributions to the Secretary of State.
The candidates who received the most contributions were Yancey, 41, and criminal defense attorney Sossi, 33.
Sossi finished second to Banks in the 2016 primary and has raised nearly $39,000. She is backed by the Michigan Farm Bureau, Pipefitters Local 636, the Auto Dealers of Michigan PAC, the chief operating officer of the Meridian Health Plan and the Small Business PAC.
Sossi said she’s focused on getting more money for Detroit through state revenue-sharing, bolstering a dwindling Detroit police force, fighting unemployment and lowering what are among the highest auto insurance premiums in the nation for Detroiters and Metro Detroiters.
Yancey, who’s also a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor, has been endorsed by powerful figures in the Wayne County government, including Executive Warren Evans, Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Treasurer Eric Sabree.
Her contributions also show strong union support: She has raised more than any other candidate — $47,560 — and netted $5,000 from the United Auto Workers union, $3,500 from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, $2,000 from Operating Engineers Local 324 and $1,000 from the Michigan Laborer’s PAC.
Her support has not seemed to wane since the disclosure of her criminal record.
Napoleon said he is still supporting Yancey despite records showing she pleaded guilty to stalking in August 1995 and served two years’ probation. She was also found guilty of retail fraud in Calhoun County in March 1995.
Later, in 1997, she was found guilty of failing to stop at the scene of a property damage accident by the same Wayne County court and sentenced to one year of probation.
Before the primary, St. Clair Shores lawyer and Democrat Kirkland Garey sent a letter to Worthy, Napoleon and the media urging the two officials to rescind their support for Yancey because of her record.
Garey, 60, said his utter distaste for the other candidates spurred his campaign, which raised $31,260 ahead of the primary — almost all of which he donated himself, campaign finance records show. Garey landed 1.6 percent of the votes.
Attack ads and emails also have targeted Justin Johnson, a Democratic candidate from Grosse Pointe Woods and brother of Sen. Bert Johnson, who is facing public corruption charges. Johnson said his brother’s legal troubles have not been a problem for his campaign.
Johnson was trailing in fourth place with 9 percent of the vote.
“I put everything I had into this campaign, so the peace that I have is: I followed my plan and I executed that plan," he said. "At the end of the day we hope that whoever is elected to this position will serve the interest of the people and will be effective and efficient and will bring about a change in the quality of life of our residents.”
He previously said he is the only person who can “hit the ground running” because of his 10 years of experience as a state House and Senate staffer and a community organizer. Johnson has raised nearly $25,000 and is financially backed by the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, Detroit City Council’s chief of staff and others in Detroit or Wayne County government.
Johnson has also been endorsed by the Michigan Association of Police Organizations, Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, the Detroit Police Commission chairman, the Wayne County Democratic Black Caucus, Service Employees International Union SEIU State Council, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees AFSCME Council 25.
The Democratic ballot includes Washington Youson of Detroit, Ronald Diebel of Detroit, John Donahue of Detroit, Burgess Foster of Grosse Pointe Woods, Keith Hollowell of Grosse Pointe Woods and Gowana Mancill of Harper Woods.
In the 109th District in Marquette County, County Commissioner Sara Cambensy won the special Democratic primary opened after former Rep. John Kivela’s suicide with 37 percent of the vote. Rich Rossway, the Marquette School Board president, won the Republican primary for that seat unopposed.