Should Virgil Smith Be Allowed to Run For Office, Even If He Agreed Not To?

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to bar former state Sen. Virgil Smith from running for the Detroit City Council District 2 seat.

Melissa Mason

Detroit’s District 2

Smith pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property for allegedly shooting at his ex-wife while she was in her car in May 2015. He finished second in Detroit’s District 2 primary election last week, but Worthy is asking his candidacy be disallowed under the terms of his plea agreement, which called from him to resign from the Legislature and not hold any elected office for at least five years.

After Worthy’s office and Smith struck the plea deal, Wayne County Circuit Judge Lawrence Judge Talon saw a “separation-of-power issue,” and vacated the part about him being disallowed from running for office, says Rick Pluta, the capitol bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Pluta joins host Sandra Svoboda on Detroit Today. Click on the above audio to hear their full conversation.

Worthy challenged Talon’s ruling, and the Michigan Court of Appeals said the issue was moot because Smith, at the time, was not giving any indication he would run for office, Pluta says.

But Smith did, challenging City Council Member George Cushingberry. In July, Worthy appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn Talon’s ruling.

Then in the Aug. 8 primary, Smith finished second to Roy McAlister, Jr., with both men earning spots on the November ballot. Worthy is now requesting that the Supreme Court do an expedited review of the case because the ballots for the November election must be finalized by Aug. 22.

Rick Pluta/MPRN

Rick Pluta, capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network

We need to have a decision so that either Virgil Smith can withdraw from the race before the ballot is printed or at the very least let voters know that he will be forced to quit the race for City Council if elected,” Pluta says.

WDET invited Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to appear on Detroit Today but she declined. She has previously appeared on the program, talking about investigations into police misconduct.

So what does Worthy’s action mean to Detroit residents?

Voters deserve either certainty that Virgil Smith belongs either on or off the ballot or deserve to know that there’s some possibility that Virgil Smith, should he be elected, could be forced out of office,” Pluta says.

Smith, as a legislator, had some “controversial” positions,” Pluta says.

He was willing to align himself with Republicans in deals that were meant to help bring down auto insurance rates in cities like Detroit but at the expense of benefits,” Pluta says. “He was willing to talk about that.”

Detroit District 2 Primary Results:

Click on the candidate’s name to see their video statement, provided by Citizen Detroit.

  Votes Percent
Linda Bernard 1,195 9%
George Cushingberry (i) 2,501 19%
Tyra Dear-Williams 672 5%
Roy McCalister Jr. 3,162 24%
Helena Scott 2,271 17%
Virgil Smith 2,812 22%

Image credit: WDET

This post is a part of How's Detroit Doing?.

With voices, data, news, and experiences, WDET is answering the question "How's Detroit Doing?" Find a collection of responses at howsdetroitdoing.org. If you have a question about how Detroit's doing, ask it here.


Support for WDET's work with The Detroit Journalism Cooperative comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.

  

 

This post is a part of 2017 Local Elections: How’s metro Detroit doing?.

This series includes WDET's coverage of candidates' in local elections -- including Detroit's mayoral, clerk and council races.

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

detroittoday@wdet.org  

We want to hear from you.
Share your thoughts and opinions: