S95th District House Race: Not just about race anymore.

Posted In: Politics, State, Local, Candidates, Interviews,   From Issue 713   By: Greg Schmid

21st October, 2010     0

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” - Woody Allen

Saginaw voters will choose a member of the Michigan House of Representatives in two weeks. The choice is between Mr. Sarge Harvey, Republican, and Mrs. Stacy Erwin Oakes, Democrat. The race for 95th District House of Representatives seat is often considered to be over in August, when primary elections are held. The district has traditionally been overwhelmingly Democrat; no Republican has won the seat in over 40 years.

Perhaps this history of inevitability explains why candidate Erwin Oakes did not participate in this forum. Perhaps there is some other reason. However, Review Magazine is committed to asking relevant questions and exposing our readers to the candidates, whether the candidates like it or not. 

Much has changed since the old days when a Democrat could count on straight ticket voters no matter what. Recent developments show that people don’t just vote according to their racial affiliation anymore, and people from all walks of life are fed up with big government.

Labor union members (not to be confused with SEIU and other public sector unions that represent white collar government employees) no longer follow Democrats blindly, largely due to overreaching policies have awakened a sleeping giant of people of all races, religions, parties, and income brackets: the “Tea Party” is a new and untested independent voting block that will force all candidates to change their ways or risk losing at the polls.



The late James E. O’Neill Jr. was elected to the seat in 1966 and served for 28 years. My own father, the late “Taxfighter” Al Schmid, regularly ran against O’Neil on the Republican ticket as a “sacrificial lamb.” They had an interesting side agreement back then; no yard signs.

With straight ticket voting back then, Democrats in this county enjoyed an 8,000 vote margin of victory and so why clutter up the place with yard signs. Some have insisted that the 95th is a “black” seat, since that is the major demographic in the district which includes the city of SaginawBuena Vista TownshipSpaulding Township, and Bridgeport Township.

That “rule” has been more honored in the exception, since Carl Williams is the only black man ever elected to the position. Mike Hanley won and easily held the seat in this “black” district for many years during the ‘90’s, until disqualified by term limits. He won after rival black candidates split the race-affiliated vote in the primary election, and as usual there was not a strenuous Republican challenge in the general election.   Former city councilman Carl Williams then held the seat from 2000-2006, when term limits forced him out. Then Andy Couloris, a young attorney who copied the Hanley playbook and split a large field of black contenders to take the primary victory, cruised to victory in 2006 and 2008. He would still be eligible to run, but has inevitably moved on to greener pastures in Washington D.C.



This past August the stage was set for another split of the black vote. Greg Deitrich ran against a field of well-known names in the black community, but he failed to campaign effectively and did not even factor in the race, except perhaps as the spoiler.

The primary winner Stacy Erwin Oakes beat back none other than Joyce Seals, former mayor and a popular favorite.

However, we don’t know much about Erwin Oakes, and she is not talking.

We know that she was a school teacher for a time, and so a member of the Michigan Education Association (a public employee union). Now she is a lawyer working as an assistant attorney general in Lansing, hired by Gov. Jennifer Granholm eight years ago. 

She seems largely self-funded, but according to her campaign finance records obtained from the state she keeps some company worth exploring.A major early donor to her campaign was the WOODROW STANLEY LEADERSHIP PAC. Woodrow Stanley now serves in the Michigan legislature, but not long ago he was mayor of Flint.

In 2002, Flint voters recalled Mayor Stanley as he ran the city’s finances into the ground. Our own city manager Darnell Early was appointed by the Granholm administration to run Flint, but Flint has never recovered. 

CURTIS & WILMA MCZEE also donated to the Erwin Oakes campaign. “Wilma” McZee is actually none other than Wilmer Ham, disgraced former mayor of the city of Saginaw. She retired from politics when convicted of insurance fraud relating to an arson scheme in 2007. 

Former city councilman WILLIE HAYNES also donated to the campaign. He also retired from politics in 2007 when he pleaded guilty in federal court after being caught with his hand in the UAW cookie jar.

Finally ALFREDIA HOLIDAY donated to the Erwin Oakes campaign. He was drummed out of the Saginaw Housing Commission’s (Commission) Public Housing Operating Fund program amid unproven allegations of misconduct, only to be reinstated by Joyce Seals in 1998. He served a sentence of  house arrest in lieu of jail after pleading no contest to a charge of assaulting his wife in their home. The allegation was that he doused his spouse with gasoline and tried to set her on fire.

A person is judged by the company they keep.

This is axiomatic in politics. Why Oakes accepted donations from these people is a mystery. If this is the crowd with whom she associates, then voters will need to reflect on whether she has the good judgment to represent us in Lansing.

If there is more to her, good or bad, then she should have taken advantage of the opportunity to participate in this process by answering the straight forward questions we asked of both candidates.

Mr. Harvey, on the other hand, did choose to participate in this process and therefore we will let the readers judge for themselves, based on unedited answers to the 5 questions we asked both candidates.


Opening Statement

Candidate Sarge Harvey:

“I am a lifelong resident of Saginaw. My wife, Renee, and I have two teenage children. I have been involved in my community through various organizations. Currently, I am a board member of St. Mary’s of Michigan Foundation, board member/instructor of Urban Youth Tennis Foundation, member of St. Stephens Catholic Church, Honorary board member of Saginaw County Child Abuse and Neglect Council.

I’m president of the Harvey Memorial Foundation, and for the past 23 years I have worked at Northeast Asset Management Group, Inc, an investment advisory firm.

I have been involved in my community and the purpose of my involvement has and always will be to “give back”. That’s way I entered this race. I didn’t enter to enhance my resume, nor, for any grand political aspirations. I did so under the banner of “community stewardship”.

Note: Candidate Erwin Oakes did not provide an opening statement.

Question 1. What is your political philosophy, what distinguishes you from your opponent, and what experience have you had that qualifies you to become a  legislator? Will you be able to "hit the ground running" in Lansing?

Harvey:  My political philosophy is conservative in nature. I believe in creating a more business friendly entrepreneurial environment for the 95th. I encourage and support the development of our green energy industries in the region along with our health care, agriculture, manufacturing, and small businesses. I’m committed to represent the citizens of the 95th to the best of my ability. I will work hard and apply common sense approaches to the issues we face.    

Note: Candidate Erwin Oakes failed to answer.

Question 2. Do you believe that our free enterprise system is fundamentally threatened by government intervention? If so, is that a good or bad thing?

Harvey: The free enterprise system is what made this country great and continues to fuel our economy. Small business creates eighty percent of the jobs in the United States. When the government assigns unnecessary and burdensome regulations, jobs disappear. I find it disturbing that we are currently creating more government sector jobs than private sector jobs. Simply put, government doesn’t produce products or services that foster job creation, businesses do! 

Note: Candidate Erwin Oakes failed to answer.

Question 3. Do you think that the growth of government at all levels, and the budget deficits and future pension and benefit liabilities that follow negatively impact job creation? What would you do as legislator to get jobs for people in Saginaw?

Harvey: In this district and across the state we need to create jobs. My responsibility in Lansing would be to assist entities such as Saginaw Future Inc. with the economic tools to continue their successful record of attracting companies to do business in the 95th. 

I would also concentrate my efforts to lessen the meaningless government regulations that burdens business, which in turn impacts job creation. An example would be the simplification of our corporate tax structure. We need a stable tax code that eliminates the uncertainty of future tax liabilities.

Note: Candidate Erwin Oakes failed to answer.

Question 4. Would you deal with the budget issues to balance Michigan's budget through increasing government revenue or decreasing government spending?

Harvey: I would deal with the budget issues facing the state by decreasing spending through structural reforms; passing balanced budgets on time with clear stated priorities; and working towards a simplified and stable tax code.

Note: Candidate Erwin Oakes failed to answer.

Question 5. Do you see yourself as a career politician, or citizen legislator? Do you support continuing current term limits on the U.S. president, the governor and all legislators?

Harvey: This is the first time I’ve ever run for political office. My campaign has focused on the issues facing the 95th i.e. jobs, public safety, education. All members of this community have a personal responsibility in making it a better place for the generations that follow.

One area I believe where everyone can participate is “neighborhood watch groups.” Those neighborhoods that have implemented watch groups are having a tremendous success in lowering crime and raising the quality of life.  We need to mirror that success throughout the 95th.

 I do support the current term limits in place from the president on down to our local legislators.

Note: Candidate Erwin Oakes failed to answer.


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