November election brings shakeup to Detroit City Council

While Mike Duggan cruised to a third consecutive win for mayor in Detroit, it was the city council that saw much of the upheaval after a relatively quiet and somewhat predictable election night in Southeast Michigan. 

James Tate Jr. easily his seat as a council member. Scott Benson and Mary Sheffield both won after running unopposed. That was about it for incumbent victories on the council. Roy McCalister Jr. and councilmember at-large Janee' Ayers both lost their bids for another term.

Newcomers Gabriela Santiago-Romero and Latisha Johnson both had solid leads in their races while only 59 votes separated Fred Durhal and Regina Ross in the 7th district. Durhal was ahead with all precincts reporting Wednesday morning.

The election caps off a busy and uncertain period for Detroit politics after multiple councilmembers became embattled in a criminal probe around bribery charges. While some, like Gabe Leland, who was the 7th District's councilmember were long out of city politics by the time election fever hit the city, others like Ayers had won their primary race in August had her office raided in the fall. With all precincts reporting, she came in third place in her at-large race.

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In the District 4 race, which featured a battle between political newcomers in community volunteer Latisha Johnson and former FOX 2 reporter M.L. Elrick, Johnson held a 2,400 vote lead by Wednesday morning. 

Both had campaigned on the importance of transparency after the cloud of corruption had seemed to sweep over the city this year.

"I'm a very detail-oriented person and so I go into that with a microscope as well, looking into things that are being done, how things are being done, and making sure everything is above board," said Johnson at her election night party.

"You just kind of wonder, where are we headed as a city because with four people under scrutiny and two of them having pled guilty, if this isn't the time that we say ‘Detroit has to put integrity first,’ I don't think that time is ever going to come," said Elrick. "That's one of the things I think about that makes me say 'this is way bigger than me, this has always been bigger than me, and if we pass up this opportunity for a clean start, when are we going to make that clean start?"

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Elrick and Johnson had battled for a seat formally held by Andre Spivey, who pleaded guilty in September to taking $35,000 in bribes. Both Ayers and Benson had their office and homes raided over the summer. Neither has been charged with a crime. 

Janee' Ayers, who had garnered the highest vote total during the August primary had scored 25.2% of the vote (38,986) on Tuesday. In second place was Mary Waters with 26.9% of the vote (41,664) and former state Sen. Coleman A. Young Jr. came in first with 31.3% of the vote (48,358).