New leadership for Democrats
New 13th Congressional Chair Rev. D. Alexander Bullock will also run for Detroit City Council
By C. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Change and challenge defined the day for Democrats at the Feb. 23 state party convention held at Cobo Hall.
Lon Johnson replaced 18-year chair Mark Brewer with the pledge that Republican-controlled Lansing cannot continue.
In the face of mounting internal politics and an impending defeat, Brewer withdrew his candidacy the day of the vote.
In another upset, Rev. D. Alexander Bullock won the 13th Congressional chair in a close race against longtime politico Frazier Kimpson. The 13th Congressional district is currently represented by Congressman John Conyers.
Kimpson, with his UAW support, was seen as the establishment candidate. Some believe the UAW controls the Michigan Democratic party.
District members are appealing the win.
“My platform was very simple. I ran because we have some very important elections coming up — city elections and state elections in 2014. As it relates to trying to take back the House, Senate and gubernatorial seats, these races are absolutely critical to Detroiters,” said Kimpson, who charges Bullock was not eligible to run for chair.
Sources say Bullock’s eligibility is being appealed, not on the basis of a late membership — since 1,400 other new and late members were waived-in — but on his eligibility to run for office. Some 13th Congressional District members are questioning whether Bullock, who is a member based on his plans to run for office, is ineligible because he does not meet residency requirements to run for Detroit City Council.
Bullock says he is running for one of the at-large Council seats and has always lived in Detroit. He also says that although his membership had lapsed, he has been a member of the Democratic party since 2007 and, because he plans to run, “had the appropriate credentials.”
Kimpson says Bullock’s late membership disqualifies him. He also alleges Bullock supporters shared credentials and ineligible people voted.
“There is no question his membership to the party was late. That is a fact. To circumvent that, he said he was a candidate for public office,” said Kimpson.
Michigan Democratic Party rules say to vote, membership must be received 30 days prior to convention. The 30-day renewal requirement is exempted for candidates.
Kimpson says he will not concede victory to Bullock and Bullock says he is qualified to run and won.
The vote was “democracy at work,” Bullock said, noting he is also ready to work with Kimpson.
“The voting is proportional, so even though I became chair, because the number is so close, they will get 45 percent of the positions on the slate,” said Bullock. “We are about unity, so we will find a seat at the table for anyone who wants to be at the table. We are willing to work together. Let’s come together and get some victories.”
Janee Ayers, recording secretary for UNITE HERE!, said the voting process should be improved.
“There were massive amounts of people trying to register and only one way in and one way out (of the room). People were pushing at the door. Luckily, Congressman Conyers extended voting by 30 minutes to let people in. The count was messy,” said Ayers, who believes Rev. Bullock won.
“It was definitely a close race but you could see Bullock had a few more votes, so we knew it wasn’t as close as the three votes but it wasn’t a landslide.”
Ayers, who represents 6,000 people in her union, said she supported Bullock because he was on the “battlefield with us when it came to right-to-work” and he understands what it means to “stand up for labor families and the middle class.”
Ayers says she would like to see the two men work together. “We don’t need to be divided,” he says.
Bullock believes Democrats want change, as evidenced by the new party leadership, and the vote represents the beginning of a “movement.”
“If you were in that room Saturday, people want something new. They don’t want people who have been in this system,” said Bullock. “People want to see new faces and new voices and have new spaces created. I think that is something, no matter what happens, that is not going to go away. Last weekend is going to foreshadow what happens in the mayoral race.”
Kimpson says the momentum is “fixated in someone else’s mind.”
“Whose momentum?” asked Kimpson. “Where have they been for the last 30 years? In the party, we have not seen them. Rev. Bullock hasn’t been to one Democratic Party meeting, that I am aware of, in the entire history of the city. You have to look at a person’s actual involvement in the party.”
Michigan’s 13th Congressional district includes much of Detroit, including the east side, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Grosse Pointe, Ecorse, Harper Woods and some downriver communities.
Rick Blocker will remain chair of the 14th Congressional district, which is represented by Gary Peters.
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