He hasn’t said it officially, but Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is widely expected to seek a second term as Lansing’s mayor this year.
She hasn’t said it officially, but three-term City Councilmember Carol Wood is certainly acting like a mayoral candidate.
Now it looks like they won’t be alone.
Lansing School Board member Charles Ford also appears poised to run. Ford told me he will make an official announcement next month, but those around him say that he’s in.
Ford is not a newcomer to the Lansing political scene, nor is he one to be cast off lightly. Elected as a Lansing City Council member around 1990, Ford finished third in a 10-way primary to succeed Jim Crawford as Lansing’s mayor in 1993, when David Hollister beat the incumbent.
In 2009, an attorney born in Lansing who is a former freshmen basketball coach at Sexton High School, would be running from his newly won school board seat. His first job as a candidate would be surviving the August primary by debunking the common assumption that a Bernero- Wood showdown is inevitable. The November general election pits the top two finishers in the nonpartisan primary.
Ford does have a network of supporters who helped him win a school board seat two years ago.
“Everything is in motion,” said one source close to Ford. “People are looking for a candidate that motivates and unites people.
“The city is losing people. The tax base is eroding. The schools are struggling. Automotive jobs are leaving. Crime is increasing. The overall quality of life is declining. It’s time to stop the bleeding.”
Ford received 4,007 votes (14.84 percent) in the school board race against six others. By comparison, Bernero won 6,042 votes in the 2005 mayoral primary and incumbent Tony Benavides won 3,519 to survive the run-off primary.
To those with history in Lansing, Ford is known as a Sexton basketball, football and track star who helped hone the basketball skills of a young Earvin “Magic” Johnson. One of Jud Heathcote’s first recruits at Michigan State, Ford’s hardwood career was cut short by a nasty leg fracture at Lansing Community College.
Ford earned a bachelor’s degree at Northwood University and a master’s from MSU. In 1987, Ford earned a law degree from Cooley. By the time Ford took the early-out from the Department of Transportation’s human resources department in 2002, he was supervising 40 employees.
After a short stint with the Abood Law Firm, the ballroom dancer hung out his own shingle in 2005, forming the Ford Law Group. The twice-divorced Ford lives downtown, although he said he’s lived in different parts of the city at different times in his life. Sources say Ford began talking to friends and supporters about an ’09 run about six months ago. Up to now, his and Wood’s are the only names in circulation, but the filing deadline isn’t until May 12.
Either way, any challenger to Bernero will have a tough road. His unpolished, bull-in-a-china-shop persona is shedding as he emerges as a national figure on the need for federal assistance for the Big Three automakers.
The golf course closings and the Matthew Macon murders suddenly seem so long ago with downtown development actually sprouting up.
No one has formally filed for mayor or a spot on City Council, but the clerk’s office has given paperwork to Jeffery Caler, a member of the city’s Human Relations and Community Services board, among two others, for Council. Incumbents Sandy Allen (2nd Ward) Brian Jeffries (at-large) and Kathie Dunbar (at-large) are expected to run again. Tim Kaltenbach (4th Ward) has said he will not seek a second term.
Rina Risper, co-founder of the New Citizens Press, told the Lansing’s Pastors United on Jan. 15 that she’s running for an at-large post. Jessica Yorko from the Mid- Michigan Environmental Council also is a possibility.
Other possibilities for Council include former state House candidate Chris Lewless, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Brad Williams, union steward Luke Canfora and gubernatorial press secretary Liz Boyd.
Stay tuned. This is just the beginning.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.)