By Paul Rozycki
The last two months have been very good for the Neeley family. In November Sheldon Neeley was elected mayor of Flint. And in a short campaign, conducted during the holiday season, Cynthia Neeley outpolled nine other candidates in the primary election Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination for the 34th state House district.
Neeley is the wife of Sheldon Neeley, who defeated Karen Weaver to win the mayor’s office two months ago. His election as mayor, and subsequent resignation from the state House, set the stage for Tuesday’s primary election.
In a campaign that ran just over a month, Cynthia Neeley won with over 28 percent of the vote in a ten candidate field with 1158 votes, outpacing all the other candidates by a substantial margin. Sean Croudy came in a distant second with 14 percent of the vote, and Flint city councilman Santino Guerra, who was expected by many to be her major challenger, came in third with 11 percent of the vote.
Republican Adam Ford, who was unopposed, had 137 votes and 63 voters cast invalid ballots, by voting for both parties.
Only 6.7 percent of the 62,242 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday. County Clerk John Gleason expressed his dismay at the low turnout in light of all the sacrifices people have made to win the right to vote and how much money was spent to conduct such a low turnout election. Neeley won the nomination with the vote of just 1.8 percent of total registered voters.
In order, the totals for the candidates were:
Cynthia Neeley, 1158 votes, 28.6 percent of votes cast
Sean Croudy, 570 votes, 14 percent
Santino Guerra, 458 votes, 11.3 percent
Charis Lee, 427 votes, 10.6 percent
Claudia Perkins, 394 votes, 9.7 percent
Michael Clack, 309 votes, 7.6 percent
Monica Galloway, 302 votes, 7.4 percent
Candice Mushatt, 238 votes, 5.9 percent
Sherwood Pea, Jr., 90 votes, 2.2 percent
Vincent Lang, 27 votes, .67 percent
Neeley’s campaign emphasized her intent to work for fair wages for women in the workplace, better access to healthcare for children and seniors, money for K-12 schools and growing small businesses in the city. She picked up on theme from her husband’s mayoral campaign by describing herself as a “unity candidate with a unifying vision for Flint.” In addition to the usual campaign flyers and handouts, she and Mayor Neeley appeared at several events where they assisted with food banks over the holiday season. After her victory she thanked the voters of Flint and expressed a desire to “hit the ground running” when she goes to Lansing.
The contest was unusual not only because it was short, took place over the holidays, and involved ten candidates, but because it placed several well-known names in Flint politics on the ballot. In addition to Cynthia Neeley, Michael Clack, son of Floyd and Brenda Clack (both of whom held the state House seat for the 34th district) was on the ballot, as was Sean Croudy, son of Lenore Croudy, who had served as chair of the Mott Community College Board of Trustees for many years, and was a candidate for city council.
Both Monica Galloway and Santino Guerra are members of the Flint City Council. The Neeleys now become the second married couple to have represented the 34th District in Flint.
The unusual timing of the campaign was likely one cause of the very light turnout. January is not a typical time for an election, and campaigning during the holidays draws little attention. There was only one forum during the shortened campaign. A candidate panel was held at the Joy Tabernacle Church, where eight of the candidates presented their views to 50 to 75 voters. Neeley did not participate in that forum.
Republican Adam Ford was unopposed for his party’s nomination, and he will face Neeley in the March 10 general election. The winner will then serve the remainder of Sheldon Neeley’s term, until the end of 2020. The district, which includes more than half of the city of Flint, has voted strongly Democratic for many years, often giving the party’s candidate 90 percent of the vote.
The winner won’t have much time to rest on their laurels. Just a few months later, candidates for the full term will face off in the August primary, and again in the November general election this year. After that, the winner will be eligible to serve three two-year terms in the state House, since they will have served less than half of a full term.
EVM Staff Writer and political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.