Virgil Smith’s Uncertain City Council Run Could Have Wide Implications Across Michigan

Virgil Smith

Former state Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) hopes to appear on the November ballot for Detroit City Council District 2. He won enough votes in the August primary election to qualify for the November runoff.

But it’s still not a sure thing. That’s because Smith agreed to a plea deal that barred him from running for public office for five years. The Michigan Court of Appeals threw out that provision of Smith’s plea deal. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is now working on appealing that ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court. 

[Hear Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta talk about Virgil Smith’s case and candidacy on Detroit Today earlier this month]

WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth talk about how this case could have much wider implications in Michigan.

Roth says the Appeals Court is saying in its decision that “voters have a constitutional right to pick their electors.”

That’s the same point that opponents of term limits say… that you cannot tell people that you cannot elect someone if that’s who (you) want to represent (you),” notes Neher. “So it would be interesting to see, if term limits ever became an issue in court, if this would have big implications for that.”

Roth says this could also have a significant impact on Michigan’s criminal court system.

It’s very rare to see a court step in and give a blanket exemption about what can be put into a plea agreement,” she says. “For the most part, prosecutors and defendants are given a pretty wide latitude to craft these contracts.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

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.

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 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 MichMash.

Each week, WDET's Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio's Cheyna Roth un-jumble Michigan issues and talk about how statewide news stories affect you. 

About the Author

Jake Neher

Detroit Today - Producer & Special Projects Reporter

Jake Neher is a producer & reporter for Detroit Today   Follow @GJNeher

Cheyna Roth


Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She’s also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.   Follow @Cheyna_R

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