(Reposted April 24) The April 19 filing deadline for state Representative has passed, and it’s already looking like the theme of this year’s contests may be “It’s a family affair.”
Former state Senator Virgil Smith (D-Detroit), convicted of a felony and serving a 10-month jail sentence, resigned a month ago, precipitating a special election to fill the unexpired portion of his four-year term ending in 2018. Ex-state Rep. Fred Durhal, Jr. (D-Detroit) has announced he’ll seek to fill the vacancy. If he wins, he’ll join his son, state Rep. Fred Durhal, III, who is a member of the state House, as members of the 98th Michigan Legislature.
Ex-state Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), who lost a hard-fought Democratic primary to Smith in 2014, has said she won’t enter the 4th Senate district race. She might have been the favorite if she had. Other possible candidates include Bullock Marshall, an aide to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; state Rep. Paul Clemente (D-Lincoln Park); and the Rev. Horace Sheffield (D-Detroit), who lost a challenge to U.S. John Conyers in 2014.
It’s certainly not unprecedented for father-and-son combinations to serve in the same Legislature. State Rep. Lamar Lemmons, Jr., and his son, Lamar III, served together in the state House in 2005-06. State Rep. Joe Young, Sr., and his son, Joe, Jr., served together in the state House from 1983-92; and state Senator Harmon Cropsey (R-Marcellus) served with his son, Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt), from 1983-86.
It’s not just a matter of father-and-son, either. Numerous other candidacies have cropped up all over the state involving family members of term-limited legislators. Not only does the outgoing incumbent want to perpetuate his or her hold on the office which he or she can no longer constitutionally hold, but pressure mounts in the political party to which the legislator belongs to retain the seat — and having the same name as the incumbent is a distinct advantage, both in primaries and general elections. MIRS newsletter has published a fascinating report that 60% of all direct relatives of former and outgoing legislators who try for the Legislature themselves have been successful since 2002.
Examples of candidacies that became official last week are the wife of term-limited Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City) in the 103rd House district; the wife of term-limited Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) in the 30th; the son of the late Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte in the same 30th; Carla Tinsley-Smith, the daughter of term-limited Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (D-Detroit) in the 2nd; the wife of former state Rep. Charles LaSata, now a Berrien Co. circuit judge, in the 79th, where Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) is term-limited; the wife of state Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit); the wife of state Rep. Paul Clemente (D-Lincoln Park); the daughter of the late state Senator Doug Carl (R-Macomb Co.); and the wife of former state Rep and current Lt. Governor Brian Calley (R-Portland).
Currently serving are state Reps. Kathy Crawford (R-Novi), who succeeded her husband, Hugh; Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), who succeeded her husband, Doug; and Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto), whose father Dick was a Senate Majority Leader and Lieutenant Governor. Former state Rep. Derek Miller (D-Warren), who resigned earlier this year to become Macomb Co. Treasurer after little more than a year in the House, is the son of former state Senator Art Miller.