Winnie Brinks

Courtesy photo / Michigan Democratic Party

It's Sunshine Week, an annual push for open government and the public’s right to know stuff.

Democrats in the state House tied the introduction of a package of bills to Sunshine Week. The bills include a number of changes to Michigan's laws and constitution regarding ethics, campaign finance, and elections.

Michigan GOP / gophouse.com

The Grand Rapids lawmaker who caused a scandal by switching political parties earlier this year will not return to Lansing. State Representative Roy Schmidt was defeated by his Democratic Party challenger, and political newcomer, Winnie Brinks.

“This wasn’t something I was planning, it was something people asked me to do (following Schmidt’s party switch).  I’m really excited about this opportunity to serve and to apply the skills I’ve learned in the last twenty years working in schools and non-profits to helping people in a more systematic way,” Brinks said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

One of the most unusual political races this election is playing out in Grand Rapids. It’s the story, the saga that is the race for the 76th State House seat.

Back in May, there was a Democratic lawmaker who wanted to become a Republican. Switching political parties is not unheard of in Michigan, although it hasn’t happened since the 1990s.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The race to become the next state representative for Grand Rapids’ 76th District is getting even weirder. It’s now a four-way race between Democrat-turned-Republican Roy Schmidt, political newcomer Winnie Brinks for the Democrats, independent candidate Keith Allard and now a write-in candidate Bing Goei.

Goei made the announcement today. His write-in campaign to unseat Roy Schmidt in the Republican primary did surprisingly well. But Schmidt managed to hang on to the GOP nomination by a very slim margin.

Now Goei says people are begging him to run in the November election anyway.

“When people call on me I have this crazy thing about responding to them,” Goei said.

He admits his odds are not so good.

“If I understand history correct, that if (insert laughs from Goei and his supporters) well, when I win that it will be the first write-in candidate who has won a state house of representative position,” Goei said.

But pressed on this issue by a reporter Goei insisted his data shows his is a “very winnable campaign”.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A political newcomer who’s challenging Democrat-turned-Republican State Representative Roy Schmidt says she’d work to get more funding for K-12 education.

Democrat Winnie Brinks is a case worker at a non-profit organization. At a very sparsely attended press conference (I was the only reporter there) Tuesday she said she's first and foremost as a mother whose main concern is her children’s public education.

Courtesy photo / Michigan Democratic Party

A Michigan house representative, who made a controversial switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party last month, will face a political novice in the fall.

Winnie Brinks filed paperwork today to run as a Democrat. She’s a case worker at a non-profit organization, and she’s never run for political office before.

“I think it’s time for some new eyes. It seems that the direction we’re heading in Lansing is not what our middle class needs; it’s not what our schools need. And not being part of that negative history, sure, I think that’s a good thing,” Brinks said.

Brinks has lived in Grand Rapids for 22 years. The 44-year-old has three daughters, aged 11, 14, and 16. She’s active in her public schools’ legislative committee and once worked for Godfrey Lee Public Schools. She says restoring education funding would be one of her top priorities.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time, but I am confident we can do it. We’ve got a lot of good energy. We’ve got a lot of support behind me,” Brinks said.

Several hundred people will need to write in Brinks name on the August primary ballot in order for her name to appear on the ballot in the general election in November.