Detroit councilwoman mulls U.S. House bid against Thanedar

Washington — At-Large Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Waters is circulating petitions to get on the ballot for a potential run for Congress in the Democratic primary against first-term U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar.

Waters, a former state lawmaker, aims to launch a formal campaign for the U.S. House in the next two weeks, according to Sam Riddle, who has run previous campaigns for Waters.

Detroit City Council member At-Large Mary Waters during a press conference in Detroit, Michigan on May 18, 2023.

Waters, a breast cancer survivor, represented the 4th District of the state House from November 2000 to 2006 and was the first African American minority floor leader from 2003 to 2006. 

She unsuccessfully ran for Congress to represent the 14th District in 2012 and for the 13th Congressional District in 2018. She was disqualified by officials for failing to obtain enough valid petition signatures.

Waters would become the second Democrat to file a challenge to Thanedar in Michigan’s 13th District, following former state Sen. Adam Hollier’s launch of a campaign last month.

Democrat John Conyers III, son of the late congressman, has also said he’s considering a bid, and Republican Martell Bivings, who ran last cycle, has also filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Thanedar won a nine-way Democratic primary contest last year, with Hollier coming in second with 24% to Thanedar’s 28%. The vote splintered among eight African-American candidates, leading to victory for Thanedar, an Indian American, who poured $6 million of his fortune into his campaign and whose ads ran on heavy rotation on TV.

Thanedar’s election marked the first time in nearly 70 years that majority-Black Detroit doesn’t have a Black lawmaker representing the city in Congress after U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, retired in January.

The 13th District covers much of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and Downriver communities.

Waters, elected to the council in 2021, works as a virtual learning instructor and previously held jobs with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Children’s Center in Detroit, which provides clinical services for children and families. 

Waters is a member of the American Federation of Teachers, a former member of the UAW, a past vice chair of the Detroit Charter Revision Commission and former president of the Sister’s Network, an organization of African American breast cancer survivors.In 2010, Waters and Riddle pleaded guilty to allegations they conspired to bribe Southfield City Councilman William Lattimore in connection with the Southfield City Council’s approval of the relocation of a pawn shop.

Waters pleaded guilty in May 2010 to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax return and was sentenced later that year to one year of probation. Later efforts to withdraw her plea were rejected. 

Since being elected to Detroit City Council as an at-large member, Waters has fought for police reforms, including a ban on the use of facial recognition technology, and works closely with the Detroit Health Department and Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

She has also been outspoken against outside city contractors doing work local contractors could be doing.

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