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.”
Tuesday’s Detroit mayoral primary election is the first since the city exited bankruptcy in 2014. The field of eight will be narrowed to two who will face off in the fall.
Under state election law, convicted felons can vote and run for office as long as they are not incarcerated or guilty of certain fraud-related offenses, or crimes involving a breach of the public trust. The Detroit News reviewed the backgrounds of all the mayoral contenders.
While some refute circumstances that led to their criminal convictions, three said their past is a motivating factor in their decisions to run.
The two who have polled ahead of the field, incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan and state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, the son of the city’s first black mayor, have no criminal records. Nor do candidates Edward Dean and Angelo Brown.
First-time contender Donna Marie Pitts, 58, has multiple felony convictions dating back to 1977, according to court records in Wayne and Oakland counties.
Although she denies wrongdoing in the past cases against her, Pitts is open about her convictions.
Pitts, who says she has a business management degree and experience in carpentry, told The News she wants a “better way of life” for Detroiters.
“I don’t hide it. God has brought me out,” said Pitts, who wants to improve health care services, and tackle crime and work on rebuilding the community. “I hope (voters) don’t look at it as negative but as my experience, and I can help. I want to fight for them.”
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