Half of candidates for Detroit mayor are convicted felons
The city of Detroit has been through a lot in the last decade: skyrocketing crime, bankruptcy, pension haircuts, and an exodus of residents and businesses.
The city emerged from bankruptcy in 2014 and is scraping by. For the first time since then, the city will hold a primary contest for mayor – eight candidates, all Democrats, of course, will vie for two spots on the ballot in November.
What makes the Detroit mayoral primary perhaps unique in American history is that fully half of the candidates are convicted felons – two of whom were convicted of attempted murder.
Half of the eight mayoral hopefuls on Detroit's primary ballot next week have been convicted of felony crimes involving drugs, assault or weapons, a Detroit News analysis shows.
Three were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the offenses date back decades, the earliest to 1977. The most recent was in 2008.
Political consultant Greg Bowens said there are candidates with past hardships in every election cycle. It's not something unique to Detroit or the political arena in general, he said.
"Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges," said Bowens, a former press secretary to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and NAACP activist. "They (candidates) deserve the opportunity to be heard, but they also deserve to have the kind of scrutiny that comes along with trying to get an important elected position."
"Not something unique to Detroit or the political arena in general"? Two candidates convicted of attempted murder isn't "unique"?
In 1977, Pitts was convicted of receiving and concealing a stolen 1977 Oldsmobile. She was sentenced to a year of probation.
A decade later, she was charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder and two firearm offenses in connection with two separate shooting incidents on March 24, 1987, Detroit Recorder's Court records say.
According to transcripts, Pitts was involved in a shootout with the owner of a collision shop and auto clinic on Greenfield in Detroit in a dispute over a repair bill.
A shootout? City council meetings are going to be very interesting if she is elected.
Fellow candidate Danetta L. Simpson has a 1996 felony conviction out of Oakland County for assault with intent to murder.
The 46-year-old former cosmetologist and salon owner has made past bids for state representative, Detroit's school board and City Council. Her prior interaction with the criminal justice system, she said, has fueled her desire to seek public office. Simpson said she represents a "new spirit" for Detroit.
"I was a wrongfully convicted felon, overcharged for a crime I did not commit," said Simpson, a mother of four, who contends the witness in the case "lied on me."
According to court records, Simpson pleaded no contest to assault with intent to commit murder – any term of years up to life in prison – in exchange for dismissal of a firearms offense.
Incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan holds a comfortable lead over the field, with the son of a former mayor, state senator Coleman Young, Jr. in second. It doesn't appear that any of the felons has much of a chance of making it to the November ballot.
But it is often said that the people get the government they deserve. I don't know if anyone deserves having to make a choice between felons and crooks.