Oct. 5 2011 12:00 AM

Red Cedar proposal shows differences between candidates, sparks 'negative' campaigning


Is the 1st Ward City Council race going negative?

Jody Washington thinks her opponent,
Lynne Martinez, took it that way last week when Martinez reacted to
Washington’s position on the Red Cedar Golf Course by saying to
supporters in an e-mail, “This is too rich.”

That prompted Washington to say voters are “not interested in snarky remarks.”

The mere fact Washington responded publicly to the e-mail the same day it went out suggests that the candidates are closely monitoring one another.

No one is offering numbers, but observers see the race, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, as tight.

Martinez, a former state representative,
narrowly beat Washington, a first-time candidate, in the primary,
receiving just 57 votes more than her in the Aug. 2 election. They
emerged from a field of five as the candidates in the run-off general
election for the seat held by Eric Hewitt, who is not seeking

The two candidates are carrying opposing endorsements from
the labor and business communities coming into the final campaign
stretch. Washington is endorsed by the Greater Lansing Labor Council,
which represents many of the unions in the area. Martinez, on the other
hand, received an endorsement from the Lansing Regional Chamber of
Commerce on Tuesday.

Despite being a long supporter of
unions, Martinez failed to get the labor endorsement, which she
admitted was part of the reason she chose to run for 1st Ward as
opposed to an At-Large seat where council members and candidates
Derrick Quinney and Carol Wood draw strong labor support, City Pulse
reported in April.

While labor influence could appear to be
the reason for the split opinions, Martinez is the one who seems to
follow the unions by saying she will vote for the proposal, which has
union backing. Washington, meanwhile, hasn’t made up her mind whether
she supports the plan.

The proposal would give the city
permission to sell for development 12.68 acres of the old golf course,
which the Bernero administration closed in 2007 for budgetary reasons.
It will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Martinez’s campaign is supported by
Mayor Virg Bernero, which may have influenced the Chamber’s decision to
endorse her. Washington has multiple family ties to the unions.

The union support could be one of the
reasons the Red Cedar Golf Course ballot proposal has provoked some
remarks that left Washington preparing to fight off a negative campaign.

In an article in last week’s City Pulse,
as well as on City Pulse’s radio show, Washington explained that while
she supported the development of the
acreage, which fronts on Michigan Avenue across from Frandor, she had
concerns that the project would not be done with the proper oversight,
which was making it hard for her to vote for the proposal in November.

“One thing I respected about Mayor
Bernero when he was in the House of Representatives, he was a strong
voice for oversight of the Engler administration, and I would hope that
he would respect those same qualities in his Council,” Washington said
on the radio show last week. “I think it’s OK to ask questions.”

Martinez, reportedly sent an e-mail to
her supporters that same day including Washington’s concerns and the
article. According to the e-mail, which Washington posted on her
campaign Facebook page, Martinez’s message read, “Jody Washington said
in today's issue of the Lansing City Pulse that she is not supporting
the sale of 12 acres of the Red Cedar Golf Course because I might get
elected and be voting on whether to approve proposed development
project. This is too rich! "Read more.”

Washington said Martinez may be feeling
desperate and turning to negative tactics after losing endorsements
from Lansing police, firefighters, unions and others.

Martinez said the comments were not
meant as a personal attack. Instead, she was trying to circulate the
article so “people know that this article is available for them to
review and make their own decisions.”

Martinez supports the Red Cedar proposal
and considers it an opportunity to create an anchor development on
Michigan Avenue, which she hopes would spur additional investments
along the corridor.

“I have to believe that since labor is
comfortable with the proposal to put this on the ballot that they
understand that this has the potential to create local, well-paid
jobs,” Martinez said.

In an interview, Martinez denied the
e-mail was a personal attack against her opponent saying, “My only
comment was ‘this is rich.’ Is that negative?”

Washington responded that she is determined to keep her campaign positive, despite Martinez’s remarks.

“I am trying desperately to keep this about hard work and issues and to let people know we can have politics with integrity.”