Detroit council finalists, including ex-mayor's son, advance to fall ballot

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The son of the city's first African American mayor, an incumbent, a former state lawmaker and an outspoken charter commissioner will square off in November for two seats representing all of Detroit's neighborhoods. 

Janee Ayers earned just under 31% of the vote in Tuesday's primary, followed by former state Sen. and mayoral candidate Coleman A. Young II. Third was former state Rep. Mary Waters, who earned 23% of the vote, and Nicole Small, a Detroit Charter Revision Commission member, with just under 11%, according to unofficial results. 

Ayers, 39, is seeking a second, four-year term as an at-large council member. President Brenda Jones, the council's other at-large member, announced earlier this year that she won't seek another term.

Besides the at-large race, Detroit voters cast ballots Tuesday on several council district races. The top two vote getters in each of the district seat contests will advance to the general election on Nov. 2.

With the departures of four incumbents, the city's 2021 council races mark the most turnover for the panel since five new members took office during Detroit's financial crisis in January 2014.

Incumbent (middle) Janeé Ayers is being challenged for her at-large seat by former state senator Coleman A. Young (top-left), Charter Revision Commissioner Nicole Small (top-right) political organizer Jermain Lee Jones (bottom-left) and former state representative Mary Waters (bottom-right).

Ayers, a former hospitality worker, has been an at-large council member for the past six years. 

"I'm very grateful voters have recognized the hard work I've put in," Ayers told The News Tuesday night. 

On Wednesday, Ayers celebrated her first place ranking in the primary, telling supporters in a Facebook post "I couldn't have done this without your support, encouragement and prayers."

"I'm incredibly blessed to have all of you backing my reelection," she wrote. 

Young, 38, served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2005-10 and two terms in the state Senate from 2011-18. The son of Detroit's first Black mayor, Coleman Young, he ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Mike Duggan four years ago and lost the primary for Michigan's 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House against U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. 

He has emphasized his legislative record in getting 13 bills passed. On the council, Young said he would advocate for investment in stormwater infrastructure to prevent future flooding after historic rainfall this summer resulted in thousands of basement backups, more public health initiatives and encourage Detroiters to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Small, 41, has served three years as the vice chair of the nine-member Detroit Charter Revision Commission. As a council member, Small said she would continue advocating for equitable policies and economic justice.

Her priorities are to implement a check-and-balance on the use of public funds for affordable water and housing, responsible contracting and equitable development.

Waters, 65, is a former state representative works as a virtual learning instructor and previously held jobs with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Children's Center in Detroit, which provides clinical services for children and families. Waters served the 4th District of the state House from November 2000 to 2006 and was the first African American minority floor leader from 2003 to 2006. 

In 2010, Waters and her former campaign manager, Sam Riddle, pleaded guilty to allegations they conspired to bribe Southfield City Councilman William Lattimore in connection with the Southfield City Council's approval of the relocation of a pawn shop. Waters pleaded guilty in May 2010 to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax return and was sentenced later that year to one year of probation. Later efforts to withdraw her plea were rejected. 

If elected, Waters said she will fight for police department reforms including a ban on the use of facial recognition technology, and seek improved collaboration between the Detroit Health Department and Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

District 1: Incumbent James Tate easily sailed to victory in the District 1 contest, earning 72% of the vote in unofficial results. He was followed by Krystal Larsosa, who had about 12%. 

Candidates for Detroit's District 1 council seat include James Tate, Krystal Larsosa, Darryl Brown and Quincy Coleman.

Tate is seeking a fourth term as the representative for the city's northwest side. On Tuesday evening, Tate noted he'd just arriving home from a day of "connecting and campaigning" with supporters and said "I don't take any candidate or anything for granted."

District 2: Council member Roy McCalister, 67, and Angela Calloway, 60, advance to the November general election in this district that covers a portion of northwest Detroit since only two candidates ran.

District 3: Councilman Scott Benson was unopposed in the primary and advanced to the Nov. 2 general election. The 51-year-old is seeking a third term representing northeast Detroit.

In the Aug. 3 race to represent District 4 includes (Top) Ane Bomani, M.L. Elrick, Virgil K. Smith, and Daivon Reeder. (Bottom) Latisha Johnson, Toson Knight, and Kenneth Snapp.

District 4: Latisha Johnson and M.L. Elrick took the top two spots in a crowded race for District 4, with Johnson earning about 32% of the vote and Elrick about 24% in unofficial results. 

In addition to Johnson, a community activist, and Elrick, a former Detroit Free Press reporter, the third highest vote getter was high school dean Toson Knight, who earned about 19% of the vote. 

November voters will decide which candidate will replace longtime seat holder Andre Spivey, who announced earlier this year that he will not pursue another four-year term. Federal authorities last week accused Spivey and an unnamed staff member of accepting more than $35,000 in bribe payments to be "influenced and rewarded" for votes over several years. Spivey was arraigned Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. 

The district is home to nearly 100,000 residents, historic neighborhoods like East English Village and businesses such as Ascension St. John Hospital. It also borders both Harper Woods and the Grosse Pointes.

Elrick, 53, is a union activist, youth sports coach and board member of the East English Village Neighborhood Association.

On Facebook Wednesday, Elrick wrote he was grateful to his volunteers, supporters and endorsers. 

"I'm focused more than ever on that finish line in November and ready to serve as your councilmember in District 4," he wrote. "There's much work to be done and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and with your support, bringing in a win on November 2."

Johnson lost the general election to Spivey in 2017. She served on the executive board of the East English Village Neighborhood Association from 2007 until 2015. She's also served on the Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals. 

If elected, Johnson said her priorities will be equitable development, updating the city's aging water infrastructure and provide transparency in local government.

District 5: Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, 34, was unopposed and advanced to the November ballot.

District 6: The battle to represent the city's southwest side will be decided in November. Gabriela Santiago-Romero, 29, policy and research director for We The People Michigan, will go up against Hector Santiago, 36, who heads workforce development for The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit focused on reforestation in the city.

Incumbent Raquel Castañeda-López, who helped recruit Santiago-Romero, announced earlier this year she would not be seeking a third term. 

Candidates for District 7 include (top) Angy Webb, Fred Durhal, John Bennett, (bottom) William Davis, Regina Ross, and JoAnna Underwood.

District 7: Former state Rep. Fred Durhal III and Regina Ross, a school teacher, finished at the top in the District 7 contest. Durhal finished ahead with about 30% of the vote, and Ross with about 24% in unofficial results.

The two will face off in November in a bid to replace resigned council member Gabe Leland, who stepped down on May 3 after he pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office.