The first Democrat to run for office in Shelby Township in eight years scored a victory Tuesday by advancing to the November ballot in the race for township trustee.
Alisa Diez, who ran in the Aug. 4 primary as a write-in candidate for township trustee, received 220 votes — enough to qualify for the general election, where she will compete against four Republicans for four seats. No Democrats qualified for the primary ballot.
The last Democrat to run for local office in the GOP stronghold was Carl Cooke, who was a candidate for trustee in 2012 primary, acccording to online election records maintained by the Macomb County Clerk’s Office. As the only Democrat in the ballot at that time, Cooke advanced to the general election, where he finished fifth, behind the four GOP candidates who were elected.
Diez faces an uphill climb in the fall election.
The Republican primary was a wide open contest with nine candidates, four of whom qualified for the November ballot. Vince Viviano, Lisa Casali, John Vermeulen and Lucia DiCicco received from 6,829 votes to 5,190 votes, far exceeding Diez’s 220 write-in votes.
The vote has not been certified by the clerk’s office, which did not respond to a request for comment. But according to election lawyer Jim Kelly, Diez reached the threshold to secure her spot on the fall ballot.
“According to the formula under the Michigan Election Law, she met the criteria to put her on November’s ballot,” Kelly said. “One of the things you need is (the greater of) 10 votes or 15% of 1% of the total population based on the last federal census results. The last census result in 2010 was 73,804 people and that would make it 111 votes she needs to get on the ballot in November.”
In a phone interview, Diez said if she wins in November, she plans to focus on economic development and push for an ethics policy for board members that would bar them from accepting donations that pose a conflict of interest.
She also said she would support terminating Police Chief Robert Shelide, who survived a motion to fire him in June after inflammatory comments he made online about Black Lives Matter protesters.
“The reckless statements he posted glorified illegal police brutality and the board’s failure to terminate him has drawn weekly protests and exposed the township to undue legal liability,” she said.
In a 5-2 vote of the trustees, Shelide was placed on a 30 day suspension and ordered to take culture awareness classes and de-escalation training.
Two days before Shelide’s June 17 suspension, Trustee Vermeulen came under fire after he posted a meme to Facebook that portrayed the white mascot from Quaker Oats and Aunt Jemima, the African-American woman who represented the syrup brand, in bed together under the phrase “Cant we all just get along.”
Vermeulen wrote “ROTFLMAO. Talk about being ‘politically incorrect’ ” ROTFLMAO is short for “rolling on the floor laughing my a– off.”
Diez’s campaign manager Robert Sembarski, who is also the chair of Michigan’s Democratic Youth Caucus, said Tuesday’s results are a sign that people want to see change.
“Shelby Township is diversifying and becoming more blue” Sembarski said. “On Tuesday, over 5,000 Democrats cast their vote for Senator Gary Peters and the (Macomb County) prosecutor’s race. The vote doubled from 2012’s election and almost tripled the 2016 results.”
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