March 8 2017 11:28 AM

With Bernero not running, Schor’s support piles up

Seats on the Andy Schor Express to City Hall are quickly filling up.

Schor, who officially filed for mayor on Tuesday, will announce today that the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors is supporting him. On the labor side, he already has the plumbers and pipefitters local and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. The latter’s endorsement cited his support in the state House of Representatives on such issues as prevailing wage and right to work.

And with incumbent Virg Bernero out of the way, pols have been quick to get onboard. All the Ingham County commissioners, including Republicans, are backing Schor, a Democrat who served on the Board of Commissioners for 10 years before going to the House. The mayoral election is nonpartisan.

Four of the five countywide elected officials are supporting him — only Register of Deeds Derrick Quinney hasn’t yet signed on. Quinney, a longtime UAW member and leader, said he will decide after the union determines its endorsement.

And a host of neighborhood leaders are backing him — no doubt looking for more attention after nearly three terms of a City Hall many of them see as favoring downtown and the Michigan Avenue Corridor over their needs.

There are also five Lansing School Board members behind him: Peter Spadafore (himself a candidate for an at-large seat on the City Council), Gabrielle Johnson Lawrence, Missy Lilje, Nino Rodriguez and Shirley Rodgers.

And thus far two regional leaders are supporting him: Delta Township Clerk Mary Clark and, intriguingly, the Lansing Township supervisor, Dion’trae Hayes. Given that Bernero once likened the township to North Korea, her support suggests a new era of cooperation. That should be music to the ears of the business community, which was tiring of the conflicts Bernero had with other mid-Michigan leaders.

Meanwhile, Schor smartly distanced himself from TJ Bucholz, a Bernero target before he pulled out of the race. Bucholz helped Schor, an old friend, with his rollout. Bernero tied Schor to the dark-money group No Secret Lansing Deals because Bucholz is its spokesman. Schor denied any connection to the group, but to play it safe, he confirmed Tuesday that he won’t further use Bucholz, calling the issue a “distraction.”

He did, though, hire one of Bucholz’ employees, Chelsea Coffey, to serve as his campaign manager. Coffey, 23, a Saginaw Valley State University graduate from Vassar, was development manager for Bucholz’ Vanguard Public Affairs. She and Schor got to know each other when she interned for the House Dems. She is taking a leave from Vanguard.

While Schor’s momentum is formidable, it’s too early to call it for him. Major players, such at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and the UAW, won’t likely decide their endorsements until after the filing deadline. Moreover, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope is still considering a run as of Tuesday, which would make the August runoff primary at least a three-way race with Councilwoman-at-Large Judi Brown Clarke, who announced her candidacy last week. Swope, who would have to forego a fourth term as clerk, could be formidable, given that he has not even drawn an opponent in his last two races.

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Five into two won’t go: Five candidates have officially filed for the two City Council at-large seats — two of them members of the Lansing School Board: Spadafore and more recently Guillermo Lopez. Incumbent Brown Clarke has announced for mayor, precluding her from running again for her at-large seat. Incumbent Kathie Dunbar presumably is running, although she has yet to file.

Lopez said he’s wanted to serve on the Council for a long time, but he couldn’t while he was still a city employee. He retired as an equal opportunity specialist in 2014, ending a 30-year municipal career.

Born in Mexico, Lopez, 67, has been a strong voice in the effort to declare Lansing a “sanctuary city,” but he said, “That’s only one issue.”

“I’ve lived here for 30-plus years, and I’ve seen our neighborhoods go downhill. Look at MLK and Holmes and Pennsylvania. We need neighborhood empowerment and development.

“The economic base for a city is its housing stock,” he added. “We have houses going down in value. How do we help families keep their homes up? Neighborhoods go down in value when city services are lacking. The streets are terrible. Many side streets are nothing but potholes.

“We’ve done a lot of good stuff downtown and on the Michigan (Avenue) Corridor, but it’s time to focus more on neighborhoods.”

The other three who are running for the two at-large spots are Christopher Jackson, a legal aid attorney; Justin DeBoer, 28, a cook and Lansing native; and Michael Ruddock, 23, a senior at MSU who is slated to graduate in May from the James Madison College with a major in social relations and policy.

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Finally, a reader raised the question of whether former city employees could continue to collect their pensions while serving on the City Council. Two candidates fall into that category: Lopez and retired internal auditor Jim DeLine, who is running to represent Lansing’s Second Ward.

The answer is yes, according to City Attorney James Smiertka. Council members are not in the retirement system, and nothing prohibits them from receiving their pensions.