12 candidates run for two empty House seats in Michigan

By Michigan Advance

November 29, 2023

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Six candidates apiece have filed for the two open seats in the state House of Representatives, with the special elections set to determine party control of the chamber next year.

After state Reps. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) and Lori Stone (D-Warren) won mayoral elections in their districts earlier this month, the Michigan House was left with a 54-54 partisan tie, with Democrats losing their slim majority. Democrats had the opportunity this year to pass a host of legislation along party lines—including abortion rights, clean energy and pro-labor bills—that went to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for approval.

Whitmer has called special elections for next year and the filing deadline ahead of the Jan. 30 primary was Monday. The special general election is scheduled for April 16.

Both seats favor Democrats. Stone represented the 13th District, which includes Macomb and Wayne counties and includes the city of Warren and a small part of Detroit. The 25th District seat, which Coleman held, is in Wayne County and includes the cities of Wayne and Westland.

The long list of candidates includes several individuals who have held elected office before, as well as others who are well-known in their communities.

The Advance contacted all 12 candidates on Monday evening and asked them to provide information about their legislative priorities and why they were running. The majority answered questions about their vision for the positions.

13th House District

LaMar D. Lemmons III

Former state Rep. LaMar D. Lemmons III of Detroit is running as a Democrat once again, as allowed under term limit reforms passed in 2022, and said he wants to represent Black Detroiters.

He noted to the Advance that he specifically is running to bring Black representation to Warren and Detroit in the 13th District, after a marked decline in African Americans representing Michiganders following the redistricting process.

“I had a white state representative and now she’s the mayor of Warren, a white state senator, who I actually served with in the House many years ago and a non-Black congressperson. I have absolutely no Black representation right now,” Lemmons III said.

He said he’d like to see a lot of policies that have hurt Detroiters be undone and would like to push for an increase in investment into Detroit schools.

Lemmons III is the son of former Rep. LaMar Lemmons Jr., who died earlier this month at age 87.

Suzanne Ostosh

Suzanne Ostosh serves on a board of “older adults” called the Older Adult Advisory Committee that advises the Macomb County Board of Commissioners on issues facing older residents in the county.

She is the executive director of Operations of Harvest Time Christian Fellowship Church in Warren where her husband Curtiss Ostosh is the pastor. Curtiss Ostosh is also running for the office as a Republican, whereas Suzanne is running as a Democrat.

“We just both have our own views and I think we could both do a good job, but we’ll let the people choose. I just feel that being a Democrat, you know, people like to help out and that’s what we’re in the business of doing is helping people,” Suzanne Ostosh told the Advance, noting the food pantry the church hosts. “We’re the largest pantry in Macomb County and we serve almost 7,000 people a month.”

Curtiss Ostosh

Curtiss Ostosh said he and his wife are passionate about helping single mothers, the homeless population, seniors and veterans, adding that Lansing needs people who have been face to face with those in need.

“It’s real to us because we’re eyeball-to-eyeball with people, and a lot of people that are in elected office, they don’t see the need of the people on the low end of the economic scale,” Ostosh told the Advance. “The homeless problem is much bigger than most people realize because there’s less than 200 homeless beds total in Macomb County and there’s about 3,600 homeless people every night in Macomb County, that includes about 1,100 or 1,200 children every single night.”

Ronald Singer

Ronald Singer, who is running as a Republican, lost the 2022 election for the seat to Stone, getting less than half as many votes as her. But the fight isn’t over and he told the Advance a lot of the bills Democrats passed this year will come back to haunt them.

“I come from an engineering background … A lot of this stuff just really doesn’t work. You just can’t have solar energy that only works during the day and think that you’re gonna somehow save some of it up for nighttime. The same thing with these windmills—you see countries that are years ahead of us are already starting to turn their back on it,” Singer said of the clean energy priorities Democrats pushed through this fall. “These electric cars are another thing there. It’s unfortunate when we run ourselves into a wall just like other countries already have.”

For too long, Michigan has sent the “wrong people” to Lansing and Washington, D.C., Singer said. He said it’s time for some “adult supervision” so the Legislature can enact policies to combat things like rising inflation which impacts those most vulnerable in the state.

Mai Xiong

Mai Xiong is a Macomb County Commissioner who unsuccessfully ran for Warren city clerk this month. Xiong is running for the House as a Democrat.

She was born in the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Loei Province of Thailand into a Hmong family. She came to Ohio at 3 years old and grew up to study business and graphic design in college, and, among other endeavors, built a fashion store called Mai&Co that designs and sells clothes inspired by Hmong culture.

Xiong is seeking to increase Asian-American and new American representation in the Legislature.

“My daughter is 4 now. She’s in preschool and … I see myself in her. And I want my children to be able to look up at our leaders and see someone that looks like them. I think that’s really impactful,” Xiong told the Advance. “So I’m excited for that opportunity. I certainly don’t want to be the first or the last [anything]. I hope that I will be able to open up doors for other women, Asian Americans and people of color and possibly even new Americans to run for office.”

She said she’s committed to bipartisanship, having collaborated with many people during her time as a county commissioner. Funding the changes to election laws passed by the legislature this year is already an area of priority for Xiong, as she’s listened to clerks’ concerns and requests for funds for additional staff.

“There are not enough resources for the local municipalities in the county. I’m going to be very conscious of that, and advocating for resources and funding to come back to the districts, to make sure that we are able to operate efficiently and serve our community,” Xiong said. “So that, to me, is the most exciting thing is knowing that I’ve been on the other side of the table. I can advocate for my current colleagues now, but also continue to serve the residents of Warren and part of Detroit.”

Brandon Cumbee

Republican candidate Brandon Cumbee of Warren did not respond to the Advance’s request in time for publication.

25th House District

Melandie Hines

Melandie Hines serves on the Wayne-Westland Community Schools Board and the Wayne County Women’s Commission and is running as a Democrat for the House.

Hines told the Advance she has been a public servant for 15 years advocating for educational and housing investments throughout metro Detroit.

“It’s just my passion and to be able to serve as a state representative. … It’s my dream. … It will be just amazing,” Hines said. “Because I’m about doing the work—like I’ve been in a community. I’ve been doing this for years and that’s what my campaign slogan is: ‘Don’t talk about it; be about it’.”

Hines said losing her husband to cancer and navigating life as a single mother, wanting to ensure her son was receiving a good education while working multiple jobs, gave her an understanding of how important taking care of people is. Investing in opportunities for trade careers, small businesses and affordable housing are high priorities.

“When I was an insurance agent doing life and health insurance, I saw the inequities in health care … with how much everything costs and you’re not working, so I’m very sensitive to those needs of the people,” Hines said.

Shannon Rochon

Leadership roles for the US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) presidential campaign and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters have helped Shannon Rochon understand needs in vulnerable communities, Rochon told the Advance in an email. He’s running as a Democrat.

“My legislative priorities revolve around three key areas: seniors, education, and the environment,” Rochon said. “I am committed to implementing policies and programs that ensure the well-being and quality of life for seniors, improving the quality of education by investing in resources and support for teachers, and protecting and preserving our natural resources while addressing climate change.”

Creating a more equitable and inclusive environment in the 25th District is the goal. Rochon said he’s ready to introduce legislation to make health care more affordable for seniors, increase affordability in housing, increase investment in renewable energy sources and promote clean air and water.

Layla Taha

Layla Taha, a health policy professional and member of the campaign of US Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), is running as a Democrat for the seat. Quality and affordable health care and environmental justice for communities most vulnerable are major priorities for her, Taha told the Advance.

“In my district, we definitely have a lot of pollution. In the city of Wayne, we have over 400 lead service lines that need to be replaced. And we recently got funding to do that through the state and now it’s just a matter of acting with urgency to make sure that that work gets done, because it’s been almost three years now since we found out about the lead levels in our water,” Taha said.

To build Michigan’s economy, the working class needs to be empowered to thrive by fair employment practices, Taha said, as well as having affordable health care.

Andrea Rutkowski

Andrea Rutkowski is the Westland City Council president pro-tem and is running as a Democrat. She did not respond to the Advance’s request in time for publication.

Peter Herzberg

Westland City Council Member Peter Herzberg is running as a Democrat. According to his campaign website, his priorities include: protecting and support recycling, working to lower water rates and voting against special interest projects “that don’t benefit our neighborhoods.”

He has been endorsed by Coleman, Westland Councilman Mike McDermott, the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO and UAW Region 1A, per his website.

Herzberg did not respond to the Advance’s request in time for publication.

Josh Powell

Josh Powell of Westland is the sole Republican running in the district. Powell did not respond to the Advance’s request in time for publication.

READ MORE: Whitmer calls for special election to end House deadlock

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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CATEGORIES: ELECTION | POLITICS

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