May 4 2017 04:32 PM

City Pulse’s totally biased, subjective introduction to the candidates for Lansing city offices

If the Trump Era means anything, it’s a renewed interest in politics. I mean, if anyone can be president, then how hard can it be to be on the City Council or even run the city.

So, when you hit the polls on Aug. 8 for the City of Lansing primary election, or start voting absentee five weeks earlier (unless, of course, you’re in the majority, which doesn’t bother to vote in city elections, and shame on you), you’ll face a staggering — some might say embarrassing — set of choices. In some parts of the city, you’re going to have wade hip deep into three city government elections: mayor, city clerk and City Council.

Thirty-one people are vying for your votes. That’s a historic high since the Council reduced its membership from 16 to eight in the 1950s, says City Clerk Chris Swope. A sign of the politically charged times: Even he has drawn an opponent, which hasn’t happened since he first ran 12 years ago.

That list of 31 includes some of Lansing’s known quantities in electoral politics, but it also includes a bevy of neophytes. We’ve reached out to each candidate to create these biased, totally subjective profiles. And most responded, but some apparently think the way to get elected is to ignore the media. That tells you something right there: Trump bashes us, but he never ignores us.

This is our first blush. We might be spot-on with our observations, and we might be dead wrong — time will be the judge on that. If nothing else, we will find out which candidates have a sense of humor.

The winners take office Jan. 1. God help us.


The top two will move on to the general in November.

Andy Schor

Age: 41

Occupation: State representative

Pro: really nice guy, perfect contrast to the last 12 years with tons of support.

Con: No clue what he’ll do as mayor because he’s only offering platitudes right now.

Judi Brown Clarke

Age: 55

Occupation: Diversity director for the National Science Foundation’s.

Bio-Computational Evolution in Action Consortium (BEACON) Center at MSU

Pro: The only Olympic Silver medalist to run for mayor in Lansing history.

Con: For someone fast on her feet, she sure is slow getting her campaign moving.

Danny Trevino

Age: 20

Occupation: unknown

Pro: Your guess is as good as ours — it’s definitely not returning phone calls and emails.

Con: He’s a political front for his dispensary-owning daddy in his war with the city over pot.

Harold Leeman, Jr.

Age: 60

Occupation: Unemployed

Pro: Chutzpah. He’s facing a felony for stealing from the city he wants to lead Con: You can’t run a city from a prison cell.

Michael Joseph Gillenkirk

Age: 73 Occupation: retired

Pro: He loves Trump.

Con: He dislikes those pesky unaccountable judges who recognize basic rights like a woman’s right to choose and same-sex marriage.

Marc Patrick Townsend

Age: 48

Occupation: Maintenance supervisor, The Porter Building in downtown Lansing

Pro: Pull yourself up by the bootstraps kinda guy.

Con: Totally for equality, except the right to pee for transgender people.


These candidates get to take a deep breath and avoid the pandemonium of the primary election in August. Since there are just two of them, they won’t appear on the ballot until the November general election.

Chris Swope

Age: 49

Occupation: City Clerk

Pro: He’s spent the last 12 years perfecting the job.

Con: That one time he screwed up and forgot to publish a public notice preventing a developer from getting a vote on a possible tax subsidy.

Jerimic Clayborn III

Age: 26

Occupation: declined to answer

Pro: He offered a blessing on City Pulse while refusing to answer questions or provide a photo.

Con: He could be an International man of mystery, or a barista at Biggby


Top four vote-getters will move on to the November election, where two will be elected.

Peter Spadafore

Age: 32

Occupation: Associate executive director, Michigan Association of School Administrators

Pro: He’s charming and smart

Con: Perfected the politician’s non-answer, answer with smooth polish.

Christopher Jackson

Age: 28

Occupation: Attorney, Elder Law of Michigan

Pro: Bright-eyed optimism mixed with youthful idealism

Con: No apparent base in the city will require lots of money or a massive ground game.

Justin DeBoer

Age: 28

Occupation: McDonald’s cook

Pro: Lifelong resident of Lansing.

Con: Everyone has dreams, right?

Guillermo Z. Lopez

Age: 67

Occupation: Retired from City of Lansing Human Relations Department

Pro: Visible and vocal leader in the Latino community with electoral experience

Con: Silence is not golden for a candidate.

Michael Ruddock

Age: 23

Occupation: Organizer

Pro: He was able to get a bunch of Lansing folk to sign his nominating petitions

Con: He is graduating from MSU this summer, will he even stay in Lansing for a part-time Council job?

Thomas J. Harris Jr.

Age: 37

Occupation: Army Reserve, student at Washtenaw Community College

Pro: Has served our country for 20 years, including two tours in Iraq

Con: Touts himself as a Lansing cheerleader, but is going to Washtenaw Community College. Come on.

Yanice Y. Jackson

Age: 38

Occupation: Managing editor, The Chronicle newspaper

Pro: Diversity is a key here: geography, social and employment history

Con: The media. Fear the media.

Evelyn Pech-Vasquez

Age: 36

Occupation: Apparently not responding to City Pulse inquiries

Pro: She has a website

Con: Come on, Wix as a web platform? Wordpress registration on domains is cheap.

Alexander Rusek

Age: 29

Occupation: Attorney, White Law PLLC

Pro: He knows what skeleton is at the bottom of the McIntyre affair

Con: Oh, look, another attorney.

Rosalinda Hernandez

Age: 50

Occupation: Pastor

Pro: She returned calls, emails and even answered questions

Con: Park Board member who voted to surrender Scott Park to BWL’s monstrosity “Central Substation”

Kyle Bowman

Age: 46

Occupation: Michigan State police trooper

Pro: lives down by the river, in a condo, in Old Town

Con: He’s a cop in an anti-cop era

Kathie Dunbar

Age: 48

Occupation: Executive Director South Lansing Community Development Association

Pro: She’s ready for a fight for any good progressive cause

Con: when she’s not absent or tardy for official meetings, of course.

4th Ward Council

Top two voter-getters in the August primary will move on to compete in the November general election.

James M. McClurken

Age: 63

Occupation: business owner

Pro: He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.

Con: Sounding more and more like a one-trick pony

Brian T. Jackson

Age: 33

Occupation: private practice attorney

Pro: The heart of a community organizer

Con: He’s got a lot of studying to do on city issues, by his own admission

Larry Hutchinson

Age: 44

Occupation: Who knows?

Pro: He filed for the race using petitions. That’s something.

Con: Says we have nothing to lose by visiting with hate group leader Louis Farrakhan.

Kathi Ann Raffone

Age: 73

Occupation: retired

Pro: South Pacific’s “cockeyed optimist” is a cloudy month in Seattle compared to her cheery worldview

Con: Struggled with paying her taxes, but says she was very sick and is all caught up now.

Jason Durham

Age: 37

Occupation: claims on Facebook to have been an actor for six years

Pro: Die hard marijuana legalization advocate

Con: “If you’re not feeding me, fucking me or financing me, and you hate me? Oh well. Use your energy on somebody else. Fuck it.” April 8th Facebook Live video.

Amanda Bernes

Age: 31

Occupation: social worker

Pro: Here comes the Bernie revolution writ local, rock on.

Con: She’s going to heal the city with social worker techniques.

2nd Ward Council
Top two voter-getters in the August primary will move on to compete in the November general election.

Jim DeLine

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired, City of Lansing internal auditor

Pro: Numbers geek for the win.

Con: Let’s be honest, budgets are not sexy

Julee Rodocker

Age: 47

Occupation: Electric materials buyer/Consumers Energy

Pro: Neighborhood activist taking the next step

Con: Not well-versed in the problems facing the city

Jeremy A. Garza

Age: 40

Occupation: Licensed plumber/safety director for UA Local 333

Pro: Fiery populism running against the establishment — career politicians, rich developers and corporate special interests

Con: Part of the special interests: organized labor.

Jaron Green

Age: 24

Occupation: Broker management at Jackson National Life

Pro: Let’s hope the city never needs his Army biohazard and chemical warfare training

Con: Tardiness is conduct unbecoming.

Tina Houghton

Age: 50

Occupation: Program adviser for the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at MSU, City Councilwoman

Pro: paid her taxes on time since being elected.

Con: What exactly has she done in eight years? No, seriously, what is her one signature initiative?