Nobody thought Democratic Ingham County
Commissioner Andy Schor would run unopposed for term-limited state Rep.
Joan Bauer’s seat.
The surprise is that all three of Schor’s
recently declared opponents in the Democratic primary are African
American. It’s a dynamic that threatens to divide the community and
leave Schor with an even better shot at winning the Lansing-based seat.
Former Ingham County Democratic Party
Chairman Griffin Rivers announced in January. Ingham County Commissioner
Dale Copedge filed paperwork with the secretary of state. Lansing City
Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson will officially announce April 12. A
fourth African-American candidate, Lansing School Board member Charles
Ford, had filed to run for the 68th, but decided Monday to run for the
Circuit Court seat opened up by Judge Paula Manderfield’s decision not
to run again.
While Robinson declined to talk about the
race until next Thursday, the other two admitted the concern among some
within the African-American community is real and that there are
ongoing discussions about what should be done about it.
Obviously, the city’s African-American community isn’t monolithic. Individually, the candidates wield great resumes, start with some real political support and have the potential to win.
The problem is they’re all starting from
square one at just about the same time. Robinson (3rd Ward) and Copedge
(6th District) represent almost identical areas — south of Victor Street
and west of Martin Luther King. Rivers lives steps away from the 3rd
Ward, but technically lives in Lansing Township.
Schor has been knocking on doors and
raising money for about a year. He’s got some $42,000 already in the
bank. While the other candidates each have their own individual bases
from which to start, the large-scale support networks like the NAACP or
the black pastors are, at least initially, neutralized.
How can either group support one of the candidates without offending and alienating the others?
This isn’t Paul Pratt v. Michael Murphy
of 2000 — a mano-a-mano clash. This isn’t even 2006 with Diana Rouse,
when she ran as the only African American candidate in a six-horse
Democratic primary for the 68th.
This is a situation where some endorsements and campaign cash simply aren’t going to happen because of conflicts.
The ideal situation for the African
American community is one unifying candidate. But it’s just hard to see
Robinson, Copedge or Rivers getting out. For starters, any of the three,
in a one-on-Schor situation, have a decent shot at winning, which is an
obvious deterrent for any of them.
This is a free shot for Robinson. She’s
already served two one-year terms as City Council president. She’s
gotten about as much name ID out of the position as she’s going to get.
She’s no longer a Jackson Public Schools administrator, so she’s got
And while she told me twice in the past
eight months that she intended to serve all four years of her brand-new
Lansing City Council term, she has a public office and other career
opportunities to explore if this bid for the $70,000-a-year state rep
job falls through.
Copedge’s recent retirement from the Department of Environmental Quality after
nearly 30 years puts him, personally, in a good position to run, too.
He’s served on the County Commission for four terms and been a part of
so much public service, it’d take half my column to list it all.
Copedge isn’t running for the County
Board of Commissioners again. In fact, a pair of potential replacements —
Joe McDonald, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s longtime aide, and Sarah
Anthony, who was Bauer’s legislative aide for a spell before joining the
Michigan College Access Network — are already making the rounds.
Rivers, 72, was swept out of the
Legislature when his former boss, House Appropriations Committee
Chairman George Cushingberry was termed out of office and didn’t win his
state Senate race. Rivers’ connections with local and statewide
Democrats (not to mention donation-eligible lobbyists) are current.
He’s got Murphy in his corner since
Rivers ran Murphy’s race in 2000. City Councilwoman Carol Wood and
former Lansing Mayor Tony Benavides showed up at Rivers’ announcement,
Will any of the four — Schor, Rivers, Copedge or Robinson — get out by the May 15 filing? My guess is no.
The Democratic nomination in the
Lansing-based 68th House District is far from over. We still have the
door-to-door stops, mail, parades, debates, public appearances and the
typical maturation of a political campaign to go through.
As with most races, the person who works the hardest and makes the best case will win.
But it’s hard to debate that if Schor’s
prospects looked good in December because he didn’t have a declared
opponent, they’re looking just as good in April because he has too many