Will a convicted felon replace a convicted felon in Lansing?
DETROIT (WJBK) - Almost six months to the day since State Representative Brian Banks resigned in disgrace, tens of thousands of Metro Detroiters still don't have a voice in Lansing. Of the 14 hopefuls to replace them, some of legal problems of their own.
Brian Banks resigned from the Michigan House of Representatives in early February after being charged with fraud for allegedly using false payroll records to obtain a loan from a credit union. He later cut a deal and served one day in jail for the crimes. Now, there are more than a dozen hopefuls to replace him and voters in Harper Woods, Detroit's East Side, and the Grosse Pointes will soon decide who to send to Lansing.
Before we dive in to their histories, we want you to see the issues that's important to them. We sent a questionnaire to all 14 candidates. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ANSWERS FROM THE NINE WHO RESPONDED TO THE FORM.
Tenisha Yancey is a former Wayne County Prosecutor. Yancey blames family tragedies and a bad relationship for a pretty rough stretch that began around her 18th birthday.
In just 18 months, Yancey was convicted of felony retail fraud twice, accused of stalking, and felonious use of a firearm. She was also charged with vandalism and trying to use her car to harm a romantic rival. Yancey spent a couple months in a couple different county jails. But that was all 20 years ago and today she attributes most of her troubles to overblown teen drama.
"The guy had another girlfriend who begun stalking me," she said. "In my mind, it was an on-going teenage fight."
Yancey says the toxic love triangle prompted her to move to southwestern Michigan. Court records in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek show she was convicted twice of taking things from stores and trying to return them for cash.
When Yancey returned to Detroit, she was charged with stalking her rival and firing a gun in the home of the woman's mother. Yancey says that never happened, which she says is why she was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor stalking charge. Six months later, Yancey was charged with smashing into her rival's car and assault. She fought the charges and a judge ultimately found her guilty of a lesser charge of leaving the scene of an accident ...
"He got it wrong based on the fact that i didn't strike her car. absolutely. absolutely," she said.
Despite the convictions, Yancey has the support of Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy, Sheriff Benny Napoleon, County Executive Warren Evans, County Treasurer Eric Sabree, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who is making robocalls on her behalf.
She also has the financial support of Brian Banks, who he said gave to her campaign but she isn't advertising that.
"He did not give me permission to use him as an endorsement," she said.
Some of her rivals have called attention to her old convictions. She doesn't want to talk about that - she wants to talk about helping senior citizens, improving education, and eliminating insurance redlining. She says her story is one of redemption and inspiration.
"At a time that I was just going through a lot of grief, a lot of turmoil from within, and making very poor decisions. But I sit here 20 years later as an adult who makes sound decisions and who tries to prevent others from making those decisions, based on my experiences," Yancey said.
She's not the only one with legal troubles.
CHILD SUPPORT WARRANTS
Justin Johnson was sued in 2011 for child support. Bench warrants were issued three times, faulting him for failing to pay in full. He was also found in contempt for owing near $1,200. Johnson says court records didn't always reflect payments he made directly to his child's mother.
He told me last week: "I've always taken care of my responsibilities."
Johnson and his child's mother appear to be working out the support issues amicably.
He says he's the best candidate because of his experience as a staff member in the State House and Detroit City Hall. He says his priorities are increasing revenue sharing to cities, improving public schools, and creating jobs by investing in Michigan's infrastructure. One of Johnson's challenges will be stepping out of the shadow of his older brother, Senator Bert Johnson - who has legal problems of his own as he awaits trial for federal public corruption charges.
Justin Johnson says he loves his brother and is hoping for the best for him, but otherwise has no opinion on the merits of the case.
CRIMINAL, CIVIL PROBLEMS
Dwight Burgess Foster has a history of criminal and civil issues. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in Detroit and breaking and entering in North Carolina. Foster says he carried a piece because Detroit was a dangerous city in 1986. 16 years later he says he took the rap for the b&e to cover for some frat brothers.
Foster blames his history of getting sued for non-payment of rent on errors by landlords and a protest over broken elevators and building maintenance. Now he wants to help lower insurance rates, make college more affordable, and create a more robust K-12 curriculum.
Washington Youson, Jr., lost three small claims cases in 2008 and 2009. He says he doesn't recall all the cases, but takes responsibility for them. Youson says his priorities are helping people get jobs, defending public education, and fixing transportation systems.
NO LEGAL PROBLEMS
The investigation didn't find any legal troubles for Pamela Sossi, but she had plenty of trouble filing campaign finance reports on time for her unsuccessful 2016 race against Banks for the first district democratic nomination. Her campaign manager says he is to blame for fines.
If elected, Sossi says she will work to increase revenue sharing for cities, fight crime and make government more accountable by strengthening ethics laws and make more government records available to the public.
Two candidates have bankruptcies in their backgrounds. Ronald Deibel filed for bankruptcy in 2006, blaming his divorce for the financial difficulties. He wants to decrease auto insurance rates, increase public school funding, and push for fair property valuations. William Phillips filed for bankruptcy in 2005. He did not respond to requests for comment.
We did not find legal or campaign finance problems for the seven other candidates seeking to replace banks. Five of those candidates did not respond to our request to fill out a questionnaire on their priorities. But Sandra Bucciero did, and she says her priorities are ending the privatization of public education, lowering auto insurance rates and creating legislative districts that are not influenced by partisan politics.
Gregory Creswell says his top three issues are repealing the no-fault auto insurance law, reducing the power of politicians, and defending individual rights and the free market. Creswell is the only libertarian in the race.