State Senator Glenn Anderson of Westland likes to think of himself as a workhorse, not a show horse. In other words, as a guy more interested in getting it done than getting press attention.
That’s a little difficult to do these days in the Michigan Senate, where Democrats have less than a third of the seats and can’t accomplish anything, at least not on their own.
However, Anderson has decided to do something that, if he succeeds, will get him a lot of attention. He’s attempting to win the Democratic nomination for Congress in the new 13th District. At first glance, that might look like an impossible task. He’ll be running against John Conyers, the longest-serving African-American congressman in history. And he’s trying to do this in a district drawn intentionally to have a black majority. The population is more than 57 percent African-American, according to the last census.
Normally, it would be hard to see how Anderson could have a chance. Except this is not going to be a normal election. For one thing, in a sense, there is no incumbent, thanks to redistricting.
The new 13th includes slightly more than half the population of Detroit, scooped out from the city’s west side through its center, and goes on to take on a collection of mainly blue-collar Wayne County suburbs, such as Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and Glenn Anderson’s Westland, which he‘s represented in both houses of the legislature for more than a decade.
Although Conyers is running in this district, he doesn’t live in it, but in the neighboring 14th District. However, he has previously represented a lot of the voters here.
So he still might be an easy favorite, except for several factors. First, the congressman, who will be 83 next year, has lost some power in Congress, and some think he’s not as effective as he once was. As a result he has drawn two other fairly well-known challengers, State Senator Bert Johnson of Highland Park, and State Representative Shanelle Jackson of Detroit.
Both insist they are in this race to stay. Like Conyers, they happen to be black. Glenn Anderson, however, is white, as are more than 40 percent of the district’s voters. If people vote their racial identity, and Conyers, Jackson and Johnson divide the black vote, Anderson could win.
And in this heavily Democratic district, being the Democratic nominee is pretty much tantamount to election.
Glenn Anderson says this isn’t about race, but about who can be the most effective representative for the district. His background is like a lot of Detroiters; born in Tennessee, he came here as a child and started working on the line at Ford when he was 18.
He worked there almost 30 years, till he went to the legislature, Along the way, he took college classes, but never quite finished a degree, and served nine years on the local city council.
The cause that moves him most, however, is the environment.
We may have reached a stage where voters feel it is no longer so important that minority districts be represented by minorities.
In fact, it’s possible that neither of the two majority-minority districts in this state will elect a black congressman next year.
It will be fascinating to see how all this plays out.