by Jessica Carreras
Detroit City Council primary elections happen Aug. 4, and candidates are wasting no time trying to gather supporters – including the LGBT vote.
Over the past week at events for Detroit’s black gay pride celebration, Hotter Than July, candidates made their way out to meet with constituents, promote themselves and schmooze. Annivory Calvert and her son Rep. Coleman Young II made an appearance at the Ruth Ellis Pride March on July 18, while Charles Pugh, Saunteel Jenkins and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing – who is also running for re-election – showed up at the Hotter Than July festival and picnic on July 25. Pugh also made an appearance at the HTJ VIP reception on Wednesday, July 22.
Pugh, who came up first in a recent poll of Detroiters on their city council picks, claimed that he was there to enjoy himself, not to garner votes. Others, such as Jenkins, used the festival to promote themselves with booths and flyers about their campaign. Mayor Bing shamelessly sported a “Re-elect Dave Bing” T-shirt.
Hank Millbourne, president of the Black Pride Society, which puts on HTJ each year, said that though no city council candidates were invited to attend the events, many came anyway, and were a hit with gay constituents.
Calvert’s unexpected appearance at the Pride March, for example, went well. “I can’t say that she’s actually been courting us,” Millbourne said of the candidate. “I think she just heard that we were having a parade and just thought it was a good opportunity and came out. She stayed a pretty decent amount of time and talked with people. I think (reactions to her) were pretty favorable. She talked about how she was very much in support of our community.”
Other candidates have voiced their support for the LGBT community, too, and are being well received. Though Pugh has been touted as the first openly gay person to run for city council, Renita Edmonds, an out, black lesbian joins him. Though relatively unknown, she has gained the attention of the Triangle Foundation.
On the side of allies, Ken Cockrel Jr. was present at June’s Pride Banquet and Awards Ceremony to present awards, and has long been known to be supportive of LGBT issues.
Council run newcomer Matthew Naimi also voiced his support in recent weeks when asked about his stance. “I believe in equal rights for all LGBT community members. I believe in LGBT marriage rights. I believe in equality in regards to insurance, taxation and survivor benefits,” Naimi told Between The Lines. “As far as what I will do once elected … I will apply my beliefs in these rights to whatever issues that will be decided by council.”
Who the community supports
But despite who may be at their events or courting their vote, LGBT Detroiters have their minds made up about who they’re supporting.
At the top of everyone’s list is ex-newscaster Charles Pugh – who stands poised to become not only the first openly gay Detroit City Council member, but also the president of the council.
In a poll of Detroit voters released July 24 by Inside Michigan Politics, Pugh topped the charts, coming out just ahead of incumbent Cockrel. The former Fox 2 anchor also holds lofty endorsements from the Detroit News and Free Press, as well as Michigan Equality and the Triangle Foundation.
“We endorse him as an openly gay candidate,” said Michigan Equality Co-Chair Michelle Brown. “With 200 some odd candidates, he’s the only one that has actually come to us.”
The Triangle Foundation Pride PAC made a full set of endorsements, with Pugh at the top of their list. Other names included Fred Elliott Hall, Dalton Roberson, JoAnn Watson, Gary Brown, Mohamed Okdie and Brenda Jones, as well as Edmonds and Cockrel.
Triangle also endorsed Dave Bing for mayor of Detroit.
Brown said that her organization declined to make a full endorsement of their picks for city council, as they prefer to focus on national and statewide elections. However, she commented that what she and all LGBT voters should look for were candidates who would not only support their issues, but support the city itself.
“It’s a time to really look for integrity, vision, transparency, community commitment and not so much name-recognition,” Brown said, pointing out that many hopefuls were well-known, but for the wrong reasons. “It’s equally important for the candidates as well as the community to sort of look at Detroit and where it goes and what’s supposed to happen with it.”