District 1 candidates sound off in voter forum

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published July 26, 2017

 Several members of the community came to the forum. The special primary election will be held Aug. 8.

Several members of the community came to the forum. The special primary election will be held Aug. 8.

Photo by Deb Jacques

HARPER WOODS — Michigan’s House District 1 has been without representation in Lansing since the recently elected holder of that seat, Brian Banks, resigned Feb. 6 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing false financial statements.

A special primary election has been scheduled for Aug. 8, to select candidates who will square off in November to complete the remainder of Banks’ term, which will end Jan. 1, 2019. On July 10, a forum was hosted by Wayne County Community College District and the League of Women Voters for the candidates in that race. 

Seven of the 14 candidates attended to share their vision for the office and their plans to better the lives of the residents of District 1. All seven who attended are running as Democrats.

Sandra Bucciero previously worked as a stockbroker and financial adviser, particularly for the elderly. She earned a law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wayne State University. During the forum, she stressed the importance of early childhood education in public schools, better tax capture and revenue sharing in the state, and her lack of connection to political action committees and special interest groups.

“I never thought I would run for public office, but after witnessing the attack on public education, experiencing our crumbling roads and seeing too much inaction in Lansing, I decided to step up to the plate and go to bat for my community,” said Bucciero. “This is a people-powered, true grass-roots campaign. I am not taking any money from special interest groups, and my campaign and I have knocked on over 12,000 doors in every corner of this diverse district.”

John Donahue is a former finance and budget expert for the U.S. Army. He attended Aquinas College and Macomb Community College and has a Master of Business Administration from Wayne State University. He stressed trying to lower crime and end revolving-door prison sentences through more community service-based sentences.

“Government is broken, so we can’t afford secret alliances or special interests,” said Donahue. “I want an expense account for teachers and zero tolerance for bullying and vandalism in education. I am a pro-life candidate … and I want to help the people of this district.”

Burgess Dwight Foster is a military veteran who previously ran to represent Michigan’s 3rd District. He attended the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland and Wayne State University. During the forum, he stressed auto insurance reform, utilizing nonviolent criminals as a workforce for state and local projects, and making college more widely available.

“Auto insurance rates are actuarially off-center. The current way they go about assessing premiums are credit scores and ZIP codes, neither of which has anything to do with my driving record. It should be based solely on driving points. The second important issue to Michigan is the cost of tuition for our posterity. One way to lower tuition is to set the cost of tuition to a full load schedule of 12 credits. … My third issue is to help single-parent moms in places like Detroit, Inkster and Flint get their GEDs so they can become more globally competitive to serve as volunteers at schools and nonprofits while they are receiving welfare benefits,” said Foster.

Kirkland Garey has been a civil trial lawyer for 35 years, practicing in both Michigan and California, as well as a solo practitioner in St. Clair Shores for the past five years, and interim CEO and president of K.L. McCoy & Associates Inc. and Twin City Hose Inc. since February 2017. He attended the University of Chicago and Wayne State University Law School. He stressed ending gerrymandering, “common-sense gun laws” and building infrastructure.

“This district needs a strong and effective, independent representative who can work with Republicans,” said Garey. “We need to return civility to Lansing and work together to move Michigan forward. For too long, lobbyists have controlled the legislative agenda in Lansing. I will be an independent voice for the 1st District. … We need to end gerrymandering and work to improve educational opportunities and training for our young people.”

Justin Johnson is a political organizer and currently is working as director of community engagement for Detroit City Councilwoman Janeé Ayers. He focused on his more than 10 years of experience working as a political staffer, and he said he is the only candidate who has made it their life’s work to effect change in government. 

“I made the decision to run because, as a husband and father, I know I possess the same values as the families who live in our district,” said Johnson. “We have all been left by the wayside as we have watched our current Legislature dismantle the things we all rely on to grow our community. Cuts to our children’s education, taxes on our seniors, attacks on our right to collectively bargain, and the lack of our tax dollars being shared with our local governments show that our state does not support the people that make our community strong.”

Pamela Sossi is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney. She ran against Brian Banks in the Democratic Party primary last August and finished second with 2,618 votes to Banks’ 3,293 votes. She received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in education from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy, and she said she is ready to hit the ground running and has been preparing for this responsibility for a long time. At the forum, she focused on ending gerrymandering, auto insurance reform, more transparency, pay equality for women and stricter gun laws.

“We won’t have a representative for 11 months; we can’t afford someone who will waste time by having to learn after they are elected,” said Sossi. “I’ve spent two years knocking on doors and talking to people. I have support all throughout the community and Lansing, as well as bipartisan support to get things done, because there are only 45 Democrats, so you have to work with the other side. Revenue sharing is a big issue because it helps you solve other issues. Legislators are taking that money to plug holes instead of passing it along to the municipalities. This money could make big strides toward fixing problems such as public safety, schools and infrastructure ourselves without relying on other mechanisms, like having to wait for bonds.”

Tenisha Yancey is a former assistant prosecutor and currently sits on the Harper Woods school board. She attended Eastern Michigan University and earned a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. She stressed education improvements, which she said would cascade to help a number of other problems, such as crime. She also said she wants to fight senior pension taxes.

“I have served the public for over 12 years, and it’s time to take my education, experience and commitment to service to Lansing and serve as the next state representative (of) District 1,” said Yancey. “I have faced many challenges, including balancing a full-time job while going to school, being underpaid, being unemployed, being a single mother, and making poor choices and decisions. Therefore, I know some of the issues that many of the people in District 1 face daily. That is why I want to be your voice in Lansing to fight for education, revenue sharing, fair insurance rates and seniors.”

Also running are Republicans Mark Corcoran and William Phelps, Libertarian Gregory Creswell, as well as Democrats Ronald Diebel, Keith Hollowell, Gowana Mancill Jr. and Washington Youson.