Dem field of MSU trustee candidates narrowing quickly


Nine candidates filed the paperwork and paid the $2,500 filing fee to run for two open Michigan State University trustee positions at this weekend’s Democratic convention at the Breslin Center, but the unprecedentedly large field may be trimmed sooner than Saturday’s planned floor vote.

The UAW and the MDP Progressive Caucus are both recommending Muskegon attorney Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay, the director of corporate relations for the United Way of Southeast Michigan and former MDP finance director.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Education Association also is recommending Scott and is saying both Tebay and 2010 nominee Dennis Denno are “well qualified.”

Denno also has the support of the building trades, the Arab-American Caucus and the Black Caucus, but after not getting the backing of the UAW, the 800-pound gorilla in Democratic political circles, or the Progressive Caucus, which helped win Dana Nessel win the party’s endorsement in the attorney general race. He’s “exploring all options” in terms of his candidacy.

Denno is an East Lansing political consultant who runs Denno Research, which does polling and political consulting. He also puts together a weekly podcast with political pundit Bill Ballenger.

On the outside looking in is Teri Lyn Bernero, the Lansing public school teacher and wife of Virg Bernero, former Lansing mayor and 2010 gubernatorial nominee. While bringing an educator background to the table, she wasn’t able to secure the blessing of any of the big organizations that predominately set the tone for who wins these races.

Someone in the running for the UAW endorsement but who opted against filing for the post is attorney Ed Duggan, son of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who apparently saw the writing on the wall on where the race was headed.

Virg Bernero had fired some shots at Duggan earlier this month after Duggan said on WWJ before the primary that the Democrats didn’t need a nominee like Bernero, who was too liberal for the electorate.

Bernero wondered if it was a backhanded attack on his wife, which the Duggan team insists it was not.

Several other second- and third-tier candidates may take their bid to a Saturday vote, but the odds are long for candidates like Justin Johnson or Matt Clayson or Corinne Shoop.

Roughly 5,000 delegates are expected at the convention, and only one vote will be taken for MSU trustee. The two candidates with the plurality win. This isn’t like a normal political campaign. Candidates without a pre-established political base or without several months of laying the groundwork of a candidacy do not win Democratic conventions.

The interest in the MSU Board of Trustee nominating posts is being fueled by the Larry Nassar sexual harassment scandal and the board’s slow and clumsy way of coming to terms with the national story.

But Nassar wasn’t the only issue that drove candidates like Tebay, 31, into getting involved. As a MSU freshman nearly 15 years ago, she, too, was a victim of sexual assault, something she and other incoming female students were warned could happen to them.

“I remember during my freshman orientation being told that one in four of us would be sexually assaulted, almost setting us up to be a statistic,” she said.

The 2008 alum has a plan on addressing the “campus culture” at Michigan State University, making students more aware of sexual health, in general, and making sure “we’re all looking after each other.”

Denno is suggesting bringing more transparency and public accountability to the MSU Police Department by combining it with the East Lansing Police Department.

The interest in the MSU posts aren’t carrying over to the other education posts. For the two open University of Michigan Regent posts, Paul Brown, a partner for Michigan eLab and 2010 nominee, has the UAW endorsement along with attorney Jordan Acker.

Acker also is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, but a third candidate, Wade Rakes, a corporate professional and member of the LGBTQ communities, notes he’s the only African-American candidate in the race and he hails from Detroit. He’s scored the MDP Progressive Caucus endorsement, but whether he’s done enough campaigning to nail down the delegates he’s going to need is the question.

The frontrunners in the Wayne State University Board of Governors appear to be Anil Kumar, a southeast Michigan urologist and 2016 11th Congressional District candidate, and Yvette McElroy Anderson, who came 6,149 votes from winning a seat on the board in 2016. Sue Carter, the MSU professor, seems to be on the outside looking in in this race along with Bryan Barnhill, who has worked as Duggan’s chief talent officer in the city of Detroit.

For state Board of Education, disabilities advocate Lily Cheng Schulting, appears to be a frontrunner. The three other candidates are Tiffany Tilley, the political director for the 14th Congressional District Democrats; former Centerline Schools Supt. Judy Pritchett and former Detroit Public Schools board member Ida Short.

* * * Last week in this space, I called Laurie Pohutsky, winner of the Democratic nomination for the 19th District state House seat, a recent MSU grad. Pohutsky, 30, a microbiologist, graduated eight years ago.

(Melinn, of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at


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