June 7 2017 03:22 PM

Lansing Chamber adds itself to Schor’s long list of endorsers

Andy Schor has a host of endorsements in his race for mayor of Lansing. But none may be bigger than that of Dion’trae Hayes.

Who? Hayes is supervisor of Lansing Township, population 8,126 spread out over five noncontiguous pieces of land in and around the city of Lansing.

And why, when Schor has the backing of state senators and representatives, unions and countywide elected officials, is the endorsement of the leader of little Lansing Township so important?

Because Hayes’ endorsement played a role in landing him the support of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hayes’ endorsement is a “big thing, symbolically,” said Steve Japinga, the chamber’s director of government relations. Lansing’s brash mayor, Virg Bernero, has wasted no love on Lansing Township, which he once dubbed North Korea.

“That relationship has been damaged and it’s time to fix it,” Japinga said. “Andy will build that bridge.”

So, Schor might want to send a thankyou note to Hayes for helping him win over the chamber, the big fish of local endorsements. With it comes serious money.

Independent political action groups, like the chamber’s, can mean as much as $20,000. Individuals can give $2,000.

Schor added the chamber endorsement to a list of local labor unions: United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitter’s Local Union 333; Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights; Greater Lansing Association of Realtors; SMART Local Union No. 7; IBEW Local Union 352;IBEW Local Union 665; Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council; LiUNA Local Union 499; Capitol City Labor Program; Operating Engineers 32l; and Michigan Teamsters Joint Council #43.

He’s racked up the endorsements of a bevy of local elected officials, including the entire membership of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. and House Democratic Leader Sam Singh of East Lansing.

Judi Brown Clarke, considered Schor’s top competitor among a field of five in the Aug. 8 primary election, released a list of endorsements that includes Clarence Underwood, the former athletic director of Michigan State University; Brent Knight, president of Lansing Community College; and Republican activist Linda Lee Tarver. In addition, Brown Clarke claims support from “more than” 50 MSU and 20 LCC faculty members and administrators, 30 Lansing School District teachers and “over 35 large and small businesses.”

In the At-Large race, where two seats are up, the chamber endorsed incumbent Kathie Dunbar and school board member Peter Spadafore. Of the dozen at-large candidates, only Dunbar, Spadafore, Guillermo Lopez, Yanice Jackson, Alexander Rusek and Kyle Bowman were interviewed. The top four vote-getters in the primary will run in the Nov. 7 General Election.

Japinga noted that while the chamber “may not agree with her on every issue, we have a great relationship” with Dunbar. He said Spadafore has a proven track record of “being a consensus builder.” He pointed to Spadafore’s term as president of the Lansing School Board when the district was able to pass a $120 million bond proposal to fund improvements to school buildings.

At-large candidates can also receive up to $20,000 from PACs and $2,000 from individuals.

Organized labor has not yet announced its endorsements for the Council. Besides the two at-large seats, the 2nd and 4th Ward spots are on the ballot.

In the 2nd Ward, two-term incumbent Tina Houghton got the Chamber nod. She’s up against five other candidates. The chamber interviewed three: Jim DeLine, the former internal auditor for the city; neighborhood activist Julee Rodocker; and Jeremy Garza.

Japinga said candidates reported to the interview committee “that things are going well in Southeast Lansing.” He said Houghton;s work with others on the Council helped to “allow job creation and economic development.”

Ward candidates can receive up to $10,000 from independent committees like LRC-PAC and up to $1,000 in donations per individual.

In a surprise move, the chamber chose not to endorse in the 4th Ward.

“There are some really good candidates out there in the 4th,” Japinga said. “We’re going to continue to build those relationships and talk with the candidates for possible endorsements in the general election.”

After incumbent Jessica Yorko announced she would not seek reelection, seven candidates filed to fill her seat: James McClurken, Elvin Caldwell, Brian T. Jackson, Kathy Raffone, Larry Hutchinson, Jason Durham and Amanda Bernes. The chamber only interviewed McClurken, vice chairman of the Park Board, and Jackson, an attorney.

“I look forward to continuing to talk with the chamber of the course of the primary,” McClurken said Tuesday. “It’s important to understand their concerns and figure where we can find common ground.”

Jackson said he had no comment about the chamber’s no endorsement decision.

Both McClurken and Jackson have racked up big national endorsements. McClurken has been endorsed by the Victory Fund, a group that helps train and support LGBT candidates for office. Jackson has been endorsed by Launch Progress, a national political action group designed to “build a bench of progressive candidates for the Democratic Party.”