FRIDAY, Sept. 3 — Lansing City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Kathie Dunbar has joined forces with two Council candidates in a newly formed political alliance called “The Crew,” which intends to unseat both Mayor Andy Schor and Councilman Jeremy Garza in November.
Dunbar and her new teammates — at-large Council candidate Claretta Duckett-Freeman and Second Ward challenger Oprah Revish — announced their alliance on an episode of "Merica 20 to Life" that aired on Wednesday night. Click here to rewatch the show.
“We’re very much grounded on grassroots efforts in the city,” Dunbar said. “We’re very much grounded in the needs of people whose voices are not being heard. We’re very much grounded in holding people accountable and that is hugely important — including for ourselves.”
Dunbar has served four terms on the City Council. Her decision to run against Schor this year meant she couldn’t also run for reelection to the Council, opening up an at-large seat for 2022. And she said electing “The Crew” will be key to effectuating her “progressive” mayoral platform.
“I also need support from the Council. It’s very necessary to move things forward,” Dunbar added. “You cannot have a mayor that is constantly fighting with a Council or a Council that is constantly fighting with the mayor. There has to be synergy between them, and our views align.”
Duckett-Freeman is among those running for that seat alongside at-large candidates Rachel Willis and Jeffrey Brown. At-Large Councilman Peter Spadafore is also running for a second at-large term. Revish is also running to block Garza from a second term in the Second Ward.
The members of “The Crew” represent an equitable and progressive shift to a city government that will focus heavily on the needs of disenfranchised residents in the city, Revish and Duckett-Freeman explained. And since the trio doesn’t have the advantage of incumbency, they also represent the underdogs of the General Election — the anti-establishment of Lansing.
Dozens of key endorsements, including from several local labor unions, community leaders and the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, have instead gone to Schor, Garza and Brown.
“We may each have totally different approaches but at the center are people — human people living their everyday lives in the city,” Revish explained. “Folks should vote for The Crew. Folks should volunteer for The Crew. We need people in there that are actually thinking about everybody — not just how they can make more money and keep folks in positions and in power. That’s what the status quo has been acting on for so long and that’s what we need to disrupt.”
Added Duckett-Freeman: “We want to be held accountable. We want to hold people accountable. In order to be accountable, you have to accept accountability. You have to be vulnerable. As long as we agree that people are at the center, I can get behind that.”
Revish, Duckett-Freeman and Dunbar also lack a fairly significant cash advantage heading into November. The latest campaign finance reports show that Schor outraised Dunbar by nearly $300,000 this cycle and still has about $232,000 in the bank. Dunbar’s balance is $6,400.
Revish only raised about $5,700 compared to Garza’s $33,800. Garza is also headed to the General Election with about $20,000 compared to Revish’s $2,800 remaining account balance.
Duckett-Freeman has raised about $8,400 and has a cash balance of about $2,800. Brown has collected nearly $13,000 in donations. Willis has raised about $6,000. Spadafore also carries a hefty cash advantage, having raised about $38,000 with a remaining balance of about $27,200.
“Me and Oprah getting on the Council is still the beginning. Y’all have to stay focused,” Duckett-Freeman said. “We have to look at who’s going to run in the next election. We have to be ready and make sure to put people in there who will center the people, not just the money and profits. We’ve made it very clear that we want to listen to the voice of the disenfranchised — and not just listen but do the work. You better vote for The Crew if you want change.”
Revish also seized an opportunity to toss a political barb at Garza’s campaign slogan.
“His slogan is ‘Working for Regular People.’ And when you say regular people, that means there are some irregular people who you aren’t working for. Who gets to define that? Jeremy Garza, plumbers and pipefitters, his constituents, people he cares about,” Revish said. “I’m a voice for everyone. I’m going to sit and talk with you and figure out how to make something work.”
Dunbar, 52, is also the director and founder of the South Lansing Community Development Association. She also serves as chairwoman of the Council’s Committee on City Operations.
Her mayoral platform includes improving customer service for residents, working with neighborhoods and small businesses and finding “collaborative solutions that address community-identified needs,” according to her website. Public safety is also a key focus.
“Our system is reactive, focused on punishment after crime occurs. Real solutions address root causes, and there’s a mountain of evidence that shows poverty and inequity are the root causes of crime. I value public safety, and I believe reducing crime increases public safety, so I’ll strategically invest in programs that reduce social and economic inequity, particularly in historically excluded communities,” she told City Pulse in June in response to a questionnaire.
Revish, 34, is a community educator and LGBTQ activist who works for Michigan State University and volunteers for the Salus Center in Lansing. Her arguably radical platform includes the complete dissolution of the Lansing Police Department and a laser focus on the Second Ward, ensuring streets, sidewalks and parks are “uplifted and upgraded,” she said.
“True social equity means we need to have a change in priorities and raise our empathy toward each other,” Revish said in June. “We need to expand our definition of public safety beyond policing. Lansing can move public safety from being reactive to proactive by providing Lansing schools with a strong curriculum that centers mental health practices. We can provide direct support to folks experiencing houselessness and folks in need of mental health resources.”
Duckett-Freeman, 39, has lived in Lansing for the last 16 years with her husband and five children. She has degrees in education and political science from Michigan State University and has served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army Reserves. Duckett-Freeman is a board member at the Willow Tree Family Center and the state Board of Licensed Midwifery and was the first Black certified lactation counselor in Lansing. In addition to volunteering for churches and several other neighborhood organizations, she’s also pursuing a career as a firefighter-EMT.
“Our taxes should go to improving our wellbeing, whether that means investing in community centers or parks and recreation. Investing in our people lowers crime and endears people to the city. I believe that punitive measures of controlling human behavior are outdated and inhumane,” she told City Pulse in June. “Taxes should improve the lives of the citizenry.”
"Merica 20 to Life" hosts Michael and Erica Lynn have developed their talkshow into one of the loudest voices of criticism against the Schor administration. They’ve also endorsed “The Crew.”
“I’m voting for the Crew because I know, as a citizen, as just an average citizen who goes to City Council meetings a lot, they don’t listen to us. They haven’t been listening to us for four years. But these three? They’re ready to take on the world, for us,” Erica Lynn said during the show.
Read more about the candidates here. City Pulse’s General Election guide publishes Sept. 29.