August 2021 Election: Meet The Candidates Running for Lansing City Council

Jul 21, 2021

Credit newamericamedia.org

Voters in Lansing are choosing among a crowded field of city council candidates on their Aug. 3 primary ballot.


WKAR's politics reporter Sarah Lehr spoke with All Things Considered host, Sophia Saliby about where the candidates stand on issues ranging from policing to COVID-19 recovery.

Winners of Aug. 3 primary will advance to a general election Nov. 2.

At-large race: Read survey responses from Lansing's at-large candidates

Ward 2: Read survey responses from candidates in southeast Lansing 

Read more: Click here for WKAR's guide to the August 2021 election in Greater Lansing

Interview Highlights

On Some Of The Candidate's Stances On Police Reform

There are candidates like Claretta Duckett-Freeman in the at-large race and Nicklas Zande and Oprah Revish in the second ward who fall more in line with the "defund the police" movement to redirect money away from policing for things like mental health and anti-poverty programs. They say policing can't be reformed. Then there are the more moderate candidates on that issue like at-large candidates Peter Spadafore and Rachel Willis. In the second ward, Jeremy Garza falls into that camp. ... These are candidates who don't want to reduce the numbers of the officers on the force, but they do support things like adding social workers who will work with the police.

On The Issues That Will Play A Role In The Nov. General Election

A lot of candidates will need to decide whether they want to align themselves with the record of the current mayor Andy Schor, who's also running for reelection this year. Did they support his decisions like hiring five more police officers and restructuring health care for city retirees? Or do they want to present themselves as the anti-Schor?

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby.

In two weeks, Lansing voters cast their ballots in the city's primary election, and there are several races for seats on the City Council. Here with me to break down the candidates is our politics reporter Sarah Lehr. Thank you for joining us.

Sarah Lehr: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: Now, the August primary will narrow down the number of candidates before a general election in November, and there are quite a few people running in the council's at-large race.

Who is the incumbent and are there any familiar faces challenging them?

Lehr: There are eight candidates competing for two seats and only four of them will make it to the general election on Nov. 2. At-large seats are elected city wide. The only incumbent is City Council President Peter Spadafore.

Also running is Lansing school board member Rachel Willis; people who follow Lansing politics may be familiar with her name.

And there's a crowded field with a host of challengers. There's Linda Appling, Grant M. Blood II, Jeffrey Brown, Claretta Duckett-Freeman and D. Taft.

Saliby: There's also a race in the second ward of the city. Who's competing there?

Lehr: The second ward is in southeast Lansing, and there, Jeremy Garza is trying to hang on to his seat and win a second term. He's a plumber and has substantial financial backing from the plumbers and pipefitters union.

He's being challenged by Oprah Revish. She's an assistant director at a center for gender and sexuality at Michigan State University. The third challenger is Nicklas Zande. He's a 19-year-old student at Lansing Community College, and he's volunteered in the Lansing City Clerk's Office.

Two of those three candidates get to advance to the general election, and one seat is ultimately is up for grabs.

Saliby: What are the flashpoints in both of these races?

Lehr: Well, Lansing’s elections are nonpartisan but Lansing voters lean liberal, so it's fair to say most candidates identify as Democrats, but there are areas of disagreement and policing is a big one.

There are candidates like Claretta Duckett-Freeman in the at-large race and Nicklas Zande and Oprah Revish in the second ward who fall more in line with the "defund the police" movement to redirect money away from policing for things like mental health and anti-poverty programs. They say policing can't be reformed.

Then there are the more moderate candidates on that issue like at-large candidates, Peter Spadafore and Rachel Willis. In the second ward, Jeremy Garza falls into that camp. I would say these are candidates who don't want to reduce the numbers of the officers on the force, but they do support things like adding social workers who will work with the police.

Saliby: How is the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath affecting these races?

Lehr: COVID-19 is still the elephant in the room. Lansing is getting about $51 million from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan to offset the pandemic's impact, but there will be lingering effects.

WKAR asked candidates how they'd help Lansing and its residents recover from the effects of the pandemic both financially and socially. At-large candidate Linda Appling suggested sharing services between local governments to save money, and there were more creative answers. D. Taft says he supports a year-round flea market, which he says will help residents recover economically by giving entrepreneurs a platform.

In the second ward, Jeremy Garza emphasized helping small businesses rebuild. And Nicklas Zande and Oprah Revish both mentioned housing in their answers. There's a CDC moratorium on evictions right now for people who don't pay their rent, but that's set to expire at the end of July. One thing that Oprah Revish specifically mentioned was finding ways to help residents who are dealing with back rent and debt.

Saliby: And what are you watching for as we head into the general election on Nov. 2?

Lehr: I think a lot of candidates will need to decide whether they want to align themselves with the record of the current mayor Andy Schor, who's also running for reelection this year.

Did they support his decisions like hiring five more police officers and restructuring health care for city retirees? Or do they want to present themselves as the anti-Schor?

Saliby: Sarah Lehr is our politics and civics reporter. Sarah, thanks for being here.

Lehr: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: We sent a list of questions to all Lansing City Council candidates and we'll publish their answers on wkar.org. And follow WKAR for more election coverage both before and after the Aug. 3 primary.

This is WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Lansing City Council Survey Responses from Sarah Lehr