Brown Clarke: ‘All options are open’

By Andy Balaskovitz

Councilwoman-elect Judi Brown Clarke is not dispelling rumors about a future run for mayor, other higher office

Wednesday, Nov. 6 — Lansing City Councilwoman-elect Judi Brown Clarke made a big splash in the local political scene Tuesday when she placed first in a field of four candidates and ousted 10-year veteran Brian Jeffries from the Council. It appears the ripple effect may be felt for years to come.

On a taping of “City Pulse on the Air” this afternoon, Brown Clarke said she has “all options open” when asked to respond to speculation that higher political office is in her future, including the Mayor’s Office.

“Here’s what I will say: There is nothing off the table right now,” she said. “I’m very candid with that. We’ll see how this plays.”

The segment airs at 7 tonight on 88.9 FM The Impact and also is available here.

After beating Jeffries by nearly 2,500 votes in Tuesday’s election, it didn’t take long for rumors to circulate about Brown Clarke’s position as a potential mayoral candidate in 2017. And she’s not necessarily shutting those rumors down.

“I absolutely have all options open,” she said.

This was Brown Clarke’s first campaign for public office. The 52-year-old Olympic Silver Medalist is diversity director for the BEACON Center at Michigan State University.

Longtime Lansing politico Joel Ferguson said such speculation is premature.

She is a natural vote getter, he said, but added, “Once they’re on that stagecoach it doesn’t mean that before they even start serving they’re driving the stagecoach.”

Throughout the campaign, Brown Clarke touted her experience in several different fields professionally, positioned herself as a fresh voice on the Council and somewhat distanced herself — at least in words — from Mayor Virg Bernero’s slate of candidates as an individual Council member. Perhaps tellingly, she had her own campaign night party, while Bernero, and victorious incumbent Councilwomen Kathie Dunbar and Jessica Yorko held a joint affair.

“I made my own decision to run. It was the perfect time for me and my family,” she said. “I’m a team player, I’m looking at team Lansing. There is no advantage to working with one person more than another.”

While Bernero and his candidates — Kathie Dunbar, Jessica Yorko and Tina Houghton — had a joint election night party Tuesday, Brown Clarke held her own a few blocks away.

“It was my party and I had a lot of really wonderful people that did a lot of incredible things for me,” she said. “I really wanted to take the time to thank them.”

Brown Clarke is the wife of District Judge Hugh Clarke and was a silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics. She was elected to a four-year term and also will become the seventh woman serving on the eight-member Council starting in 2014. Dunbar took home just 84 fewer votes to retain her at-large seat for a third term on the Council.

Brown Clarke said knocking on about 6,500 doors and her professional background were key to helping her win.

“She won for two reasons,” Ferguson said. “She had the best presentation of anyone in the campaign. And she was part of Virg’s slate.

“I think she’s an excellent candidate and will do a great job.”