What began as a run-of-the-mill candidates' forum between three local politicians escalated into a shouting match between audience members and organizers Wednesday evening, with police officers eventually summoned.
Off With a Bang
As more than 60 audience members crowded into the Grosse Pointe Woods city council chambers for the Grosse Pointe League of Women Voters forum for candidates in Michigan's 1st District race, volunteers handed each an index card to write a question to the candidates. The questions were collected by forum volunteers.
Before the candidates could even give their opening remarks, members of the audience broke ranks and loudly accused LWV volunteer George McMullen of being a campaign contributor to Democratic candidate Brian Banks and that McMullen should not be allowed to sort the audience's submitted debate questions.
GPLWV President Christina Schlitt responded that, while the LWV is not a political organization, every person within the LWV is allowed their political view. Schlitt continued that multiple volunteers were sorting the questions for redundancy and this gave the sorting process balance.
McMullen later told Patch that he had, in fact, contributed to both Banks and Schulte's campaign fundraisers and was a member of both local Republican and Democrat organizations.
While several disgruntled members of the audience continued to murmur among themselves, the debate continued with the candidates' opening statements about their qualifications and background.
Who Are the Candidates?
Three candidates are vying for the opportunity to represent residents in the new 1st District that includes parts of Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores.
Lifelong Harper Woods resident and city parks employee Zachary Zichi, a write-in candidate for the Libertarian Party, is new to the campaign trail having filed his candidacy in late September.
Republican candidate Dan Schulte is a two-term Grosse Pointe Shores councilman and currently serves as the Shores' Mayor Pro-Tem. He is the only candidate running that has prior experience as an elected public official.
Democratic candidate Brian Banks, also of Harper Woods, is an adjunct professor at Baker College and community activist.
Banks, Schulte and Zichi found consensus on issues like supporting public transit, local control of schools and in their mutual opposition to Michigan's pending Emergency Manager proposal, which would allow the governor to appoint an emergency manager if the state determines that there is a financial emergency and allows the emergency manager to act in place of local government officials.
On the issues of school vouchers, unions and Michigan becoming a 'Right to Work' state, the candidates parted ways and often along traditional party lines.
A full broadcast of the debate's questions and answers will air Thursday at 8 p.m. on the War Memorial's local public television station and each evening at the same time through Monday, Oct. 8.
Candidate's Past Questioned
During Wednesday's forum, a question was posed to Brian Banks about his criminal convictions and how people can trust him as their elected representative.
Banks has admitted to being an eight-time felon convicted of passing bad checks and credit card fraud. His last conviction was in 2004.
"When you look at the mistakes I've made and what I've accomplished since then, I've shown great tenacity and commitment to rehabilitating myself by not only going to one university, but two universities and receiving a Bachelor's, a Master's ... and a law degree.
"I've taken the time to pay my debt to society. I've admitted my wrong. I've accepted my responsibility. I'm a tax-paying, contributing member of society and I should be afforded the opportunity to serve the people," Banks said.
Later another question posed to Banks asked if he was a defendant in any pending court action. Banks stated that he had signed a lease for a relative who had failed to pay the rent on time but that the issue had been resolved.
That's when Grosse Pointe Shores resident Dr. Robert Lee jumped to his feet and accused Banks of lying about the pending litigation in Harper Woods. The disturbance caused volunteers to summon four police officers into the room, who remained until the crowd became quiet.
Banks did not respond to the accusation.
According to District 32A of Wayne County, Banks is being sued for eviction from a residence in Harper Woods. The case was filed on Sept. 11 and the trial was scheduled to take place on Thursday in Harper Woods, ABC News reported.
In an article by the Huffington Post, Banks referenced the pending eviction action.
"I was a victim of the economy. I, as with several of my constituents, have experienced economic challenges as well as have lived through obstacles that families face trying to better their quality of life."
Banks' final comments to the audience asked for their vote and for them to look beyond his past mistakes.
"Just like I have past, many of you have a past, many of your family members. So I'm asking that on November 6th, you allow me to be your state representative."