Winfrey comes out on top in Detroit clerk primary

DetroitIncumbent Janice Winfrey cruised ahead of her competitors in the Tuesday primary race for Detroit city clerk, putting her in position to win a fifth term.

Winfrey led with 71% of the vote, with all precincts reporting. She will face Denzel McCampbell, a Detroit Charter commissioner, in the November general election. 

McCampbell secured 15.4% of the vote in unofficial results. 

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey speaks during press conference at the Department of Elections, in Detroit, August 2, 2021.

"I work hard and apparently the citizens, for the most part, appreciate it," Winfrey said of her Tuesday night lead. 

Winfrey, city clerk since 2006, bested now-Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist in a tight race in 2017 but has faced a series of controversies in her term.

Political observers had said it was “anybody’s race" and likened this year's contest to 2006, when Winfrey won the seat from longtime incumbent Jackie Currie. 

Michael Robertson, 62, said he voted for Clerk Janice Winfrey because "she seems to be doing her job." He also credited her name recognition.

Robertson said he doesn’t trust that Winfrey’s opponents and their new ideas. He said the city of Detroit is going through a "fairly good transformation" and he doesn't want to mess with that.

McCampbell finished in second place over Michael Ri'chard, legislative aide to Wayne County Commissioner Monique Baker McCormick and Beverly Kindle-Walker, legislative assistant to Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen. Ri'chard and Kindle-Walker respectively had 3.5% and 10% of the vote as of 10 p.m.

McCampbell was a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, before he started his campaign. She was stumping for him at various polling places Tuesday. She said "people are frustrated" with Winfrey's mistakes and said McCampbell is committed to voter's rights issues. 

Denzel McCampbell candidate for Detroit City Clerk outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

Shkrya Finley, 41, of Detroit voted for McCampbell.

"We need someone new, fresh, with a new set of eyes," Finley said. "It's probably time for Winfrey to sit down and enjoy life with her family."

McCampbell spent time at the polls Tuesday. He listened to voters at Greater Grace Temple Church on the city's north side about their issues with evictions, the city land bank and the lack of voter education on this year's ballot proposals. 

He criticized how his opponent handled Tuesday's primary election. Some city voters said they were not notified, or told just yesterday, their polling places had been reassigned, he said. 

"Even today, we have folks that have come up with their absentee ballots because they had just got it," McCampbell said. "We have folks that have been turned away multiple times, that there were signs that had the wrong times that the polling locations were open… we don't want any inconvenience in voting because we know, especially in a low turnout election, we know that could be a difference maker."

Winfrey rebuked the claim that voters had not been adequately notified of their shifted polling places, which she said happened because some were flooded in a July storm. She said she hosted a press conference, sent letters, posted signs and had people standing at the closed polling places to tell voters where to go.

Winfrey's re-election campaign is shadowed by clerical issues in last year’s presidential primary. In 72% of the city’s absentee voting precincts, recorded ballot counts didn’t match the number of ballots cast. Then, 46% of precincts had voting totals that didn’t match precinct poll book numbers.

The secretary of State stepped in before the November election to help Winfrey’s office administer the November general election.

Winfrey has defended her office's performance. 

The city's chronically out-of-balance precincts spurred a change in state law in 2018 that required counties to report mismatched tabulations to the Michigan Secretary of State. The Nov. 3 election was the first statewide general election where counties had to report their data under the law.