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Politics & Government

August 2021 Election: Four Face Off In Jackson Mayoral Primary

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WKAR-MSU
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WKAR sent a list of questions to all of the candidates for Jackson mayor asking them their stances on the biggest issues the city faces.

Four candidates are competing in Jackson's Aug. 3 primary to become the city's next mayor. 

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke with politics reporter Sarah Lehr about the race's biggest issues and what to expect leading up to the general election Nov. 2.

Candidate survey: Click here to read responses from candidates for Jackson mayor

Voter guide: Read WKAR's primer on voting in Greater Lansing 

Interview Highlights

On The Candidates Running

There's Daniel Mahoney who's a Jackson County commissioner. He's facing two current Jackson City Council members, Jeromy Alexander and Laura Dwyer Schlecte. Alexander represents Ward 3 which is northeast Jackson. Schlecte is a Ward 4 representative. That's the northwest corner of the city. Schlecte and Alexander have run unsuccessfully for mayor before as has the fourth challenger, John Wilson. John Wilson is retired from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

On How Candidates Say They Would Boost Pandemic Recovery

Both Daniel Mahoney and Laura Dwyer Schlecte emphasized supporting small businesses and their recovery from the pandemic. Schlecte also talked about addressing housing — using city-owned lots for affordable housing and reforming policies for non-owner-occupied properties to encourage investment. He didn't tie it to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, but John Wilson has made an issue of providing financial relief to residents by rolling back a water rate increase and by capping sewer fees.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I'm Sophia Saliby. Voters in the city of Jackson head to the polls early next month for a primary election. Mayor Derek Dobies is not seeking reelection, so four candidates are vying to advance to the general in November. I'm here with WKAR’s politics reporter Sarah Lehr to break down the race. Thank you for joining me.

Sarah Lehr: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: So, tell us who's running this year.

Lehr: Of the four people running for mayor, two will advance to the general election Nov. 2, and one person, ultimately, will be elected to a two-year term. The race is nonpartisan, and none of the contenders are strangers to local politics. There's Daniel Mahoney who's a Jackson County commissioner. He's facing two current Jackson City Council members, Jeromy Alexander and Laura Dwyer Schlecte. Alexander represents Ward 3 which is northeast Jackson. Schlecte is a Ward 4 representative. That's the northwest corner of the city. Schlecte and Alexander have run unsuccessfully for mayor before as has the fourth challenger, John Wilson. John Wilson retired from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Saliby: What are some hot button issues in the city that are impacting the race?

Lehr: Jackson is working to create a citizen police oversight commission. WKAR surveyed all the candidates and two of them, Laura Dwyer Schlecte and Daniel Mahoney, specifically mentioned some type of police oversight board as something they support. John Wilson emphasizes his background in law enforcement, and he says he does not support a citizen advisory commission for the police department because he says it would interfere with police duties. Wilson was unique among the four candidates in saying policing in Jackson does not need to be reformed. None of the mayoral candidates in Jackson voiced support for the defund the police movement.

That's in contrast to the city of Lansing, which also has a mayoral election this year. Some of the candidates in Lansing have expressed support for cutting police funding and also reducing the number of officers on the force.

WKAR asked the Jackson candidates, “If they were forced to make budget cuts. what's the last thing they would cut?” Public safety, meaning police and fire, came up again and again as something candidates said they wanted to protect in the budget.

Saliby: What about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? What plans do candidates offer for financial recovery?

Lehr: Both Daniel Mahoney and Laura Dwyer Schlecte emphasized supporting small businesses in their recovery from the pandemic. Schlecte also talked about addressing housing — using city-owned lots for affordable housing and reforming policies for non-owner-occupied properties to encourage investment. He didn't tie it to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, but John Wilson has made an issue of providing financial relief to residents by rolling back a water rate increase and by capping sewer fees. Current City Council members in Jackson have defended the increases as necessary to pay for replacing lead service lines.

Saliby: And what should we keep our eyes on for the general election on Nov. 2?

Lehr: Along with the mayor's race, there's going to be several City Council races on the ballot. None of the council races had enough contenders to be contested in the primary but two races, Ward 1 and Ward 3, will be contested in the general. Ward 3 is the seat Jeromy Alexander is giving up to run for mayor. Ward 1 is a south central part of the city. City Council members in Jackson are elected to four-year terms.

Just like in the primary, I think we can expect robust absentee voter turnout in the general election. If you have an absentee ballot, it needs to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, whether you're mailing it, returning it at a city clerk's office or putting it in a drop box. 

Saliby: Sarah Lehr is our politics and civics reporter. Thank you for being here.

Lehr: It's been a pleasure.

Saliby: We sent a list of questions to all of the candidates for Jackson mayor, and we're publishing their answers online at wkar.org. Follow us for more election coverage both before and after the Aug. 3 primary.

I'm Sophia Saliby. This is WKAR.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

WKAR Candidate Survey: Jackson Mayor from Sarah Lehr

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