Detroit Elects New Members to City Council Amid Corruption Allegations

Between retirements and resignations, about half of the nine-person council will feature new faces when members take office in January.

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Detroit voters elected new members on Tuesday to a City Council covered by a cloud of corruption allegations.

In addition to voting on whether to approve the sale of city property and changes to city laws, Detroit’s City Council controls the city contracts and purse strings of government. Federal officials say contractors controlled two councilmen who pleaded guilty after being charged with crimes. 

Gabe Leland and Andre Spivey resigned earlier this year amid the investigation into bribery payments. Former state Rep. Fred Durhal will represent District 7 following Leland’s departure and Latisha Johnson will become the councilwoman for District 4, Spivey’s former district.

At-large Councilwoman Janeé Ayers, whose home was raided as part of the ongoing federal investigation, was defeated in Tuesday’s election, losing to Mary Waters for the second at-large seat. Coleman A. Young II was the top vote-getter in the at-large race, securing more than 30% of the vote.

District 3 Councilman Scott Benson ran for reelection unopposed, however over 9% of voters in his district cast their ballots for write-in candidates.

Benson’s home was also raided. Ayers and Benson have not been charged with a crime.

A Historic Win in District 6

Elsewhere in the city, newcomer Gabriela Santiago-Romero secured victory in District 6, garnering 74% of the vote to defeat opponent Hector Santiago. That makes her the second Latina ever elected to the council.

Rosa María Zamarrón
Rosa María Zamarrón

Santiago-Romero succeeds Raquel Castañeda-López, who tapped her to fill the seat, Santiago-Romero said.

“Having our council woman who’s the first Latina who’s such an incredible leader, like Raquel, let me know that she’s stepping down and encouraged me to run for her seats is is something that I could have just only dreamed of,” Santiago-Romero said.

Santiago-Romero said she has a sense of what matters to her constituents from knocking on doors during her campaign. 

“People really want to make sure that they are able to access housing through the land bank, that we have more protections, more environmental protections. So I want to be evaluating those departments seeing what they need, if its resources, its staff, to make sure that we have what we need to be answering the calls that people have.” 

In District 2, challenger Angela Calloway defeated Councilman Roy McCalister Jr. in an upset loss.

District 1 Councilman James Tate will return to the council for a fourth term after beating challenger Krystal Larsosa. City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield ran unopposed in District 5.

Between retirements and resignations, six of the nine-person City Council will be new faces when members take office in January.

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  • Quinn Klinefelter

    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.

  • Laura Herberg

    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.

  • Meta Stange

    Meta Stange is the Digital Content and Engagement Manager for 101.9 WDET, overseeing the station's digital editorial content. She enjoys reading, making bad jokes, and hanging out with her dog, Salmon.