Primary Candidates for Michigan’s District 1

Priorities and Qualifications in the candidates’ own words.

WDET and Fox 2 asked the 14 candidates for Michigan’s District 1 House seat representing Harper Woods, Grosse Pointes Woods, the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores and Detroit’s east side to share their priorities and qualifications. Their answers appear below. They have not been edited.

Democrats John William Donahue, Burgess Dwight Foster and Gowana Mancill Jr., and Republicans Mark Corcoran and William Scott Phillips did not respond.

“The reason we look into the backgrounds of candidates is because candidates spend a lot of money and a lot of effort telling us how great they are and they never tell us about the other side of the coin. That’s really what voters need to know if they’re going to make a good decision, if they’re going to make an informed decision. So while some candidates may think we’re picking on them…what we’re doing is giving voters the full story which they’re most certainly entitled to.” — M. L. Elrick, Fox 2

More on the 2017 District 1 Race: Candidates For Brian Banks’ Seat Talk Character and Corruption



Top three things I hope to accomplish:

1. I would like to end the privatization of public education to make sure every child in Michigan has access to a high quality public education. I would like to increase funding for public education by increasing per pupil spending. I would like to expand funding for early childhood education to ensure that every child in Michigan gets the best possible start in life. I will support legislation that prohibits for profit charter schools from receiving tax-payer dollars.

2. I would like to accomplish auto-insurance reform to lower insurance rates for Michigan residents. I will support legislation that prohibits insurance companies from the practice of using arbitrary criteria like zip code, income, and education level to determine insurance rates. Auto-insurers should only be permitted to use criteria that are logically related to a person’s risk of getting into an accident to determine rates. I will support legislation that limits the amount that medical providers can bill autoinsurers for auto related injuries so that the auto-insurers are billed at the same rates as health-insurers.

3. I would like to end political gerrymandering by creating a non-partisan redistricting commission because political gerrymandering is undermining our democracy and disenfranchising voters all over Michigan.

Why I am the Best Candidate:

I grew up in Detroit, and I now live in Grosse Pointe Woods with my husband and children so I have deep connections to all parts of our district. Plus, I am the only candidate who has both legal and financial experience, giving me a professional background that is uniquely tailored to serve as an effective legislator.

Anything else I would like you and the voters to know:

I am running a true grassroots campaign. I have accepted zero PAC dollars, and my all-volunteer campaign staff and I have knocked on over 12,000 doors in all corners of the district. I am running to be a voice for the people, not the powerful. If you would like to learn more, please visit



1. Lower automobile insurance rates by prohibiting the use of credit scores in the setting of rates. Bad credit does not equal a bad driver. I propose that the State of Michigan establish a statewide minimal coverage insurance that is provided by the State and is paid for when a driver renews his plates and registration. If you are required to have insurance and plates to drive, why not tie the two together?

2. Improve our schools. Increase public school funding and establish minimal standards as to what actually constitutes an education. Establish maximum class sizes, and require that classes be staffed by well qualified certified teachers. I would allow parents to sue in circuit court if their child’s education fails to meet basic standards. Nothing holds back our economic rebirth more than our poorly educated workforce.

3. Address property tax foreclosures. Valuations must be current and accurate; challenging them should be simple. I will propose legislation calling for an investigation of Detroit’s past practices of using inflated valuations to exploit homeowners. Thousands of Detroiters were wrongfully forced from their homes by the City over inflated valuations and their failure to provide exemptions for homeowners living in poverty. Fees and interest charges for back taxes should be fair and reasonable, not a profit maker. Property taxes are a necessary evil, but for all of us to be at risk of losing our homes in the event of hard times, renders us nothing more than renters.


I am blessed to be competing with passionate and highly qualified candidates. I have lived and worked in Detroit my entire life. I worked my way through college and law school with a good union job and have managed to rise from meager means to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. I know what it is like to struggle in poverty, to live in a high crime community, and to go to a less than ideal school. I have done well with good luck, good friends, and hard work. I will help others to do the same.

What we found: Ronald Diebel filed for bankruptcy in 2009. He says he experienced financial difficulties after a divorce.


Candidate has not responded to our questionnaire.


Candidate has not responded to our questionnaire.

What we found: Burgess Dwight Foster was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in 1986, misdemeanor breaking and entering in North Carolina in 2002, and has been sued several times for non-payment of rent. He says Detroit was a dangerous place in 1986. The 2002 charge, he says, stemmed from his taking the blame when a frat party got out of control. Foster credits the rent suits to administrative errors and says he has always paid his rent. He does say he participated in a rent strike while living in one apartment building to protest poor maintenance and a broken elevator.



If elected to represent the First District in Lansing, I hope to return civility to our public discourse and work with Republicans to maximize the returns to this District. For too long, this District has not been adequately represented in Lansing. I will do this by spending time in Lansing and getting to know the people across the aisle. I will work hard to obtain funding to improve education and training of young people to create a workforce that can fill the jobs necessary to rebuild our infrastructure. This will involve working with Republicans to maximize the funds needed to finance these initiatives. Third, I will work to end the gerrymandering of legislative districts in this state. As the former recording secretary of the 14 District Democratic Party for the past 4 years, I have seen the negative effects of these poorly drawn districts. It is evident in the way the First District is currently configured as well. I will support the efforts of Representative Jeremy Moss in the Legislature, as well as the pending petition to put this issue before the voters in November 2018.

I believe that I am the best qualified candidate because of my 35 years working as a litigator and trial attorney. I know how to get results and compromise. I am not beholden to any special interests or lobbyists and will be a strong and effective voice for District 1.



The top three thing I would like to accomplish as a state representative are: (1) education reform I would like to see the way in which schools in the state are funded, I would like to see some parity in the way in which districts receive their funding. I would also like to see a return to and an increase in vocational programs in the middle and high school curriculum. (2) The next item I would like to accomplish is insurance reform via increased regulations to prevent discriminatory practices and redlining. I believe that no-fault auto insurance can work if it better regulated. (3) The third item I would like to accomplish is an increase in programs and funding for seniors and mental health issues.

Although some of my concerns may result in becoming ballot initiatives, I think a lot can be accomplish by reaching across the aisle and working with the republican led house members to come to some mutual agreement.

A sentence or two about what makes you the best candidate for the job (including any special qualifications)

I think my passion to serve and commitment to being a public servant makes me the best candidate. I am committed to the advancement of society regardless of race, religion, or the social or economic conditions of an individual. District 1 is a very diverse district and everyone should be represented equally. I believe that we are all Americans and in this global environment, we need to strengthen American values.


Why am I the best candidate for the job?

I am the only candidate that has worked closely within the legislative bodies at both the state and local level which will be critical with this abbreviated term and term limits. I am uniquely prepared in that I have built relationships within the legislative body of government over the past 12 years. I have negotiation experience that helps me to understand the need to be pragmatic and to avoid an impasse on behalf of the people that I represent.

Restoring Revenue Sharing

Under Michigan law, cities receive funds to improve public services through revenue sharing. Over the past 15 years, cities in our region have lost more than 1 billion dollars in statutory revenue sharing because of bad policy decisions made in Lansing. I will commit to bringing these dollars back to support municipalities in their effort to improve the quality of life for all the residents of District 1, as well as push to find new ways to fund local services that all communities rely on to grow and thrive.

Improving Our Public Schools

As a father of three young children, I know firsthand that quality education is important. Research shows that children develop the skills they need to learn successfully before they even reach kindergarten. I am committed to expanding early childhood education, improving math and science programs, responsible regulation of charter schools and making college more affordable. Everyone should have access to quality public education no matter where they live.

Increasing Economic Opportunity

I will work to bridge the gap between job seekers and available positions by increasing training and boosting small businesses. Also, in order for our state to progress we need to make investments in jobcreating infrastructure projects like fixing our crumbling roads, building a comprehensive public transit system, and improving our electric and telecommunication grids. In creating the jobs of the future, we must insure that anyone who works a full-time job can be successful and support their families, by paying living wages.

What we found: Justin Johnson was sued in 2011 for child support and has had bench warrants issued three times for failure to pay. He says he made payments to the child’s mother and has always taken care of his responsibilities.


Candidate has not responded to our questionnaire.



• 1) Under Michigan law, cities receive revenue to help pay for services such as police and fire, roads and infrastructure. For most cities, approximately 75% of their revenue comes from property taxes and revenue sharing. Since 2005, District 1 has lost $840 million from a lack of revenue sharing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan is the only state in the country providing fewer economic resources to its cities in 2012 than it did in 2002. As District 1’s next Representative in Lansing, I will work to ensure that District 1’s communities get their full revenue sharing.

• 2) District 1 includes the most dangerous portion of Detroit. The rise of crime on the East side has brought gang violence and gun crimes to District 1.The State’s refusal to fully fund revenue sharing, along with declining property values, has lead to a decrease in the number of police officers available to fight the rise in crime in District 1.Since 2005, District 1 has lost 1,025 police officers. I will fight to stop the rise of crime in the District by: Increasing funding for MSP forensic labs; Investing in Veteran’s courts, mental health courts and drug treatment courts; Increasing participation in the FBI’s Safe Streets Violent Crimes Initiative; Increasing funding to expand the MSP’s Secure Cities Partnership.

• 3) A recent national study of state ethics and transparency laws ranked Michigan dead last. Michigan is one of only two states that exempt both the Governor and the Legislature from state open records laws. Michigan also has no laws requiring public financial disclosures by elected officials. As a State Representative, I will support legislation that will strengthen our ethics laws by removing the Governor AND the Legislature’s exemption from FOIA and requiring public financial disclosures by elected officials.

• Born and raised in Harper Woods, I am a fourth generation resident of the District. I own a small business in Detroit, where I practice as a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, including as a public defender in Detroit and Harper Woods. I have recovered over a million dollars in verdicts and settlements for my clients!

• A registered Democrat since age 18, I currently serve as the MDP Precinct Delegate for Precinct 4 in Harper Woods. In 2016, I ran for office for the first time, against Brian Banks, a two-time incumbent. Although my opponent raised the most money of any candidate running for state house, my race was “the most competitive in Wayne County” (Detroit Free Press, 8/2/16). 26 days into his new term, Brian Banks had to resign from the Michigan House of Representatives, leaving District 1 with no voice in Lansing. I am running in the Special Election to restore that voice to my District and ensure that it speaks for EVERYONE, not just the powerful third party groups and career politicians that got us into this mess in the first place!

What we found: Pamela Sossi was fined for late campaign filings for her 2016 race against Brian Banks. Her campaign manager says late filings were his fault.



• The top three things you hope to accomplish as a state representative and how you plan to accomplish them (please be specific, but brief, limiting your answer to 250 words)

As a state representative, my top three issues of concern are: 1) senior needs 2) education and 3) eliminating insurance redlining

Seniors should not have to choose between medication, food, and paying bills; to give seniors more of their money, I will work to repeal the retiree pension tax, and I will work to enact and strengthen laws that will protect seniors.

Every child deserves access to a safe, quality education. Through enacting and strengthening current legislation, I will fight to ensure that each school district has proper funding based on their respective needs. Insurance companies should base its rates on driving records and drivers’ experience, not their addresses. I would propose legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against applicants based on where they call home.

• A sentence or two about what makes you the best candidate for the job (including any special qualifications);

I am the best candidate for this position because I was born and raised in this district and have attended schools K-12 in this district. I can relate and understand the needs of most of the residents in District 1 and I am 1 of few licensed attorneys in this race, so I also understand the law. What sets me apart from the other attorneys in this race is my pubic service experience. I have nearly 13 years of experience in Wayne County that has helped prepare me for the State Representative position, including writing proposed amendments to legislation and advocating for the citizens of Wayne County as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney..

• Anything else you would like us to know or think voters should know about you (good, bad or otherwise);

After losing my father 5 days before my 14th birthday while continuously caring for my mother whom had suffered multiple strokes, I found myself making some wrong choices and decisions, including relationships. In my teens, I got involved in a very bad relationship that resulted in me having contact with the criminal justice system. Although I am not proud of the decisions I made as a teenager, I am definitely proud that I was able to turn my life around by graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and passing the Michigan Bar Exam including a very thorough Character and Fitness Exam. Not only did I become a licensed attorney, I also served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and my former boss, Kym Worthy is endorsing me.

I use my life experiences to encourage young people, including my son, to make better life choices and how one wrong decision can change your life. I have been a guest speaker for many youth/mentoring programs and schools in the City of Detroit.

What we found: Between 1994 and 1996, Tenisha Yancey was accused of retail fraud, stalking, using a car as weapon and firing a gun in a home. She says when she was young, and after some significant losses, she made poor decisions. She says she tells her story to motivate young people to make better decisions and has not had similar problems since.



My top three legislative priorities are 1) providing the opportunity for all people to have a fair chance to get a job; 2) defending public education; and 3) fixing our transportation systems. I will work to implement Ban The Box legislation, institute strong mental health support systems in our community, fight to return our schools to local control and invest in both early childhood and public education, and support investment in a regional transportation system founded on good roads and affordable public transit options. I believe strong families are essential to strong communities and that the state must do more to support entrepreneurs who create community-based ‘lifestyle’ businesses instead of giving corporate handouts to large corporations.

I’m the best candidate because I truly care. My years of dedicated service have prepared me to faithfully and skillfully execute the duties and responsibilities of the office and I know the 1st State House District’s residents deserve responsive, uncompromised leadership. I will fight for our community and all of the things that Lansing and Governor Snyder have tried to deny us.



Top three priorities:

a) Repeal the No-Fault law.

b) Reduce the power, control and access to our income by all politicians within Mich.

c) Defend individual rights and the free market.

To achieve those goals: Because I would be inside the gov’t, I would gain credibility with the citizens/voters within my district and outside my district. I would be able to prove that big gov’t doesn’t work. So I would sponsor and or co sponsor bills to repeal all laws that violate individual rights and the free market. And lastly, to show that big gov’t oppress economic freedoms and our liberties.

I am the best candidate: Because, the Libertarian Party, the party I voted for, for the first time in 1988, who I joined in 1992, have been consistent in defending individual rights, the free market and supporting small gov’t.

Tidbits about me: I am a founding member of Brass Roots (a pro-2nd amendment group), supported the MCRI ballot issue in 2006, married since 1982, we have 2 adult children and 1 grand-daughter.

My favorite job: paperboy. I believe that “taxation is theft”. I love Star Trek. 


Candidate has not responded to our questionnaire.



Candidate has not responded to our questionnaire.

What we found: William Phillips filed for bankruptcy in 2005. He did not respond to requests for comment.


  • Sascha Raiyn
    Sascha Raiyn is Education Reporter at 101.9 WDET. She is a native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.