Committee, is it possible for voters to know who is in the race or for whom they are even voting?
The candidate list is filled with familiar names such as Charles Pugh,
Freman Hendrix and Gary Brown. However, are less familiar candidates
subject to lose the race due to lack of name recognition?
Are voters overlooking promising and qualified candidates because the
celebrated names in politics are casting a large shadow over those with
little or no name recognition?
The underdogs are working hard to make a name for themselves. Since they are less likely to attract heavy media coverage, many voters have no idea about their platforms or goals for the city of Detroit.
As the Aug. 4 primary approaches, everyone can agree that voters need
to be informed about all the candidates on the ballot in order to make
wise, informed choices.
Each underdog has his or her own passion and drive. Each has different
reasons for why they are running. Whether it be passion to stop crime, or a passion to get children off the streets. However, they each have something in common: a grassroots campaign.
“I believe that the grassroots approach is always the best. I talk directly to the citizens, and look them in the eye. Shake their hand. Very simple,” said Freddie Payne, former director of Targeted Business Development for Detroit. “We’re doing a lot with little. We don’t have television spots, we hope to win the endorsement of the people.”
Payne offers a plethora of experience to the citizens of Detroit. He has worked as a teacher, a non-profit counselor, and for Chrysler. He believes
his work speaks for itself. He does not believe financial endorsements
determine who will be victorious.
“I am a product of this city,” said Payne. “I can go against anybody.”
The underdog candidates have been working their way through the city the old-fashioned way — directly to the people. These candidates are confident that even without the luxury of large billboards and newspaper
endorsements they have a fighting chance to make it through the primary.
“People are tired of the name games,” said Sonia Farmer. “Give people a chance who are in the community and from the community.”
Farmer has three issues she wants to attack: unemployment, crime and
clean neighborhoods. She is an avid participator in Angels Night, but
wants to enforce the values of Angels Night for every night. She wants to
clean the neighborhoods and renovate abandoned buildings for leasing.
“I’d like to see week-long job fairs right inside the City/County Building,”
said Farmer. “We have programs that work, but we don’t enforce them
The underdog candidates rely heavily on their social skills within in the community. Many of them are not major political players; rather, they are concerned citizens, people who have worked in the community.
“I’m noticing that many of the candidates are business people and attorneys. I’m not,” said Alicia Dennis, a union steward for Utility Workers
of America. “I’ve been more intimate with my community, trying to get my
message out there.”
Dennis trusts she is doing well in her community outreach. However, she is certain this will be a very tough race. She wants to restore the trust and integrity in the Detroit City Council.
“If everyone is working as hard as I am, then this will be a very tight race,” she added.
The big names have not deterred the underdogs from pursuing what they believe is right. The title of underdog may even give these candidates
a reason to work harder. Candidates with less financial backing seem to engage more in the community to make up for the lack of media coverage.
“I never wanted the money to be a reason why people voted for me. I
want it to be because I have a great stance against crime and taking the
city back from crime and corruption,” said a very confident James
Romero II. “Meeting the citizens is better than television endorsements
Romero believes that his running for office is a calling from God. In fact, the three words he uses to describe his campaign are “led by God.” Romero’s profession has been in auto sales and mortgage lending. He has helped Detroit residents obtain finance for home loans and cars.
“I feel fairly confident that I will be one the 18 to move on to the November election,” said Romero. “I may be an underdog, but to me I am a front runner and I will see them at the finish line.”
There are various reasons why the 169 candidates are running for Detroit
City Council. Many times over voters hear how candidates want to serve with integrity, they want candidates and office holders to have stronger ethics, or want to diversify the economy.
But one candidate couldn’t care less about business first; she is fighting for youth.
“Most of the people who interview us talk about the money, but if we don’t help the children, we don’t need businesses,” said Renita Edmonds. “It’s not about business, it’s about getting children off the street.”
In her passionate interview, Edmonds asserts that the media is not looking at the big picture. She is of the opinion that the citizens of Detroit need to realize what is most important. She believes the city should build recreation centers before businesses. She is a teacher for Detroit Public Schools and a foster care mother, taking care of young boys. She acknowledged that she does not have the skills to allocate a million dollar budget, but she trusts
her skills with dealing with kids and eradicating crime.
“If the children are not safe, and people are moving out of the neighborhoods, then there’s no need to bring businesses into a ghost town,” said Edmonds. “I can go up against anybody in the race. I know what I believe is right, I have to make people see the bigger picture.”
Though most of the candidates realize their financial disadvantage, they do not allow it to dissuade them. One candidate believes the name underdog
is wrongly applied to her campaign.
“I do not think that the term ‘underdog’ accurately describes me as a candidate, simply because of the fact that I am not as well known to the general public,” said Kay Nevels-Shavers. “Because some of the candidates have been in the media light for various reasons, this does not make them any more qualified than I am.”
Nevels-Shavers is a special education teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. Her campaign is based on integrity, dignity and unity. She wants to preserve Detroit’s jewels, such as Cobo Hall, Belle Isle and the
Detroit Zoo. She also wants a cleaner Detroit, advocating the demolition of
vacant houses and other buildings.
“I feel that term underdog is biased. In fact, we have talked to many of the voters, and they (say) that they want to see fresh talent,” said Nevels-Shavers “With that in mind, voters tell us that they want council members who are competent, trustworthy, dedicated to issues in the best interest of the citizens. Most of all, they want them to exhibit professionalism and be able to work collaboratively.”
Without the cameras and bright lights, candidates for Detroit City Council are still vying for voters’ attention. The grassroots campaigns may be more arduous because candidates have to attempt to make up for lack of financial backing and name familiarity. However, these contenders have proven themselves to be willing to work that much harder for something they believe in.
Perhaps the word “underdog” is inappropriate for these candidates. They may lack experience in certain areas, but they are qualified and compensate
for whatever they lack with fervor and hard work work.
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