DETROIT, Michigan – Felony conviction usually a job disqualifier, not if you’re running for Detroit mayor.
A mayor is the city’s leader, ambassador and police boss. Now, one city could add another descriptor to the job description — convicted felon.
The Detroit News reports half of the eight mayoral hopefuls on Detroit’s primary ballot are convicted felons with crimes involving drugs, assault or weapons.
Three candidates were charged with gun offenses and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the wrongdoings date back many years, the earliest to 1977. The most recent charge is from 2008, according to The Detroit News.
Some argue this is typical during elections … showing the candidate has lived a little.
“Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges,” political consultant Greg Bowens, a former Press Secretary to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and NAACP activist, tells The Detroit News. “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.”
The Detroit News reports Tuesday’s mayoral primary election is the first held since the city exited bankruptcy in 2014. The primary will narrow the field of eight down to two candidates who will then face off in the fall.
Under Michigan’s 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 candidates refute their convictions, with one calling her conviction “frivolous,” another says, “I don’t hide it. God has brought me out,” said first-time contender Donna Marie Pitts, 58, who has multiple felony convictions dating back to 1977. She tells The Detroit News she wants to improve health care services, and tackle crime and 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.”
One of the candidates tells The Detroit News as a felon he struggles to find employment, and that his past holds him back.
Candidate Curtis Christopher Greene was charged with a felony at 19. The Detroit News reports Greene, an author, said he’s since turned his life around by earning marketing degrees from the University of Phoenix and writing three books.
“I came from a crime-ridden area,” Greene tells The Detroit News. “My life, I believe it was very complex growing up.”
Although he received leniency and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, meaning his conviction would be dismissed if he met all probationary requirements, The Detroit News reports Greene violated probation in July 2005 when he was arrested and charged with uttering and publishing a fraudulent check in Gratiot County — a felony.
“I believe I’m the one to change the city,” Greene, an activist, and ordained minister, tells. “Something put this in my heart to do it now.”
The Detroit News reports two candidates are polling ahead of the field, incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan and Michigan state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, the son of the city’s first black mayor. Neither has criminal records, nor do candidates Edward Dean and Angelo Brown.
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