Running from the margins

To call their candidacies long shots is to drastically understate their situations. With virtually no media attention, limited financial resources, and lacking even a seat on stage during the major debates, they are the mayoral candidates that you will most likely never hear of.

Not that they aren’t trying to get their messages out.

Take Raymond Lile Jr., for example.

According to his campaign material — a typed, one-page handout — he is “… a Christian man that dropped out of schools and passed up a West Point and architectural drafting career just to step into a long life of high-rolling nights, homelessness, dereliction, addiction, despair and desperation.” But he turned his life around, “returned to God’s light,” joined the Navy, became a cement mason, and eventually built up a small company that teaches that trade “to young women and young men to become productive members of Detroit and society.”

One of 21 people on the mayoral ballot, Lile was outside the Detroit Music Hall last week when four of the “leading” candidates were up on the stage inside to participate in a forum.

“They didn’t invite me,” said Lile, “so I set up my podium out here on the sidewalk so that I can answer questions from the people. It’s better this way. You can’t really give a complete answer in the three minutes they give you inside.”

Why is he running?

“I am a common man for the common people with a common cause,” he says in his handout. “Let’s put principles before personalities and prestige.”

While Lile was outside pitching his candidacy, mayoral hopeful Eileen V. Martin sat in the audience, watching her better-known competitors make their pitches and trade barbs before a crowd of about 300 people.

As résumés go, Martin’s rivals that of anyone in the race. A sergeant with 26 years on the Detroit police force, she lists several advanced degrees on her campaign material, including a master’s in public administration and a Ph.D. in government. According to that same material, she is a licensed builder, realtor and vice president of a trucking company. Along with all that, she’s senior pastor of Crossroads Victory Full Gospel International Cathedral and “travels the world ‘doing what she does best’ — leading, administrating, managing, preaching, teaching, training, educating, instructing, counseling and empowering people.”

Martin says she will use $150,000 of her own money to mount a campaign, spending much of that cash on freeway billboards. She is also holding fundraisers such as car washes and fish fries. It will be enough, she believes, to beat what appear to be insurmountable odds.

Being shut out of the debates and failing to garner any media attention only makes her more determined.

“They are blocking me hard and heavy, but that only gives me more energy than ever before,” says Martin. “I will win this race. I sincerely believe that.”

For Charles Costa, this is a road he’s been down before. Three times, in fact.

The personable owner of an antique-filled Detroit paint store, Costa mounted campaigns against both Coleman Young (twice) and Dennis Archer, losing badly each time out. But he remains optimistic, saying the exposure gained during his previous campaigns could well pay off this time out.

“A lot of people are calling, a lot of people are coming in,” says Costa. “People are saying, ‘This time it’s your time.’ This time the recognition is there. I’m very confident. I have a lot of popularity, and a lot of recognition, and a lot of respect. Match me with any of the candidates and I’ll take them all.” In large part, he’s banking on his success as a businessman with 40 years experience in this community as a selling point to voters — and, just as importantly, contributors.

“The first time I ran, I thought that so many people knew me, that I didn’t need any money,” he says. “I was 100 percent wrong. It takes lots of money.”

Osborne Hart, on the other hand, harbors few illusions he will actually become Detroit’s next mayor. Then again, he doesn’t much think that change will come from the ballot box. A member of the Socialist Workers Party, Hart is of the belief that real political transformations are the product of mass movements and take place in the streets.

But the Detroit meat packer is nonetheless running, squeezing in campaign events at night and on weekends.

“My campaign is kind of different,” he explains. “I want to bring working class issues into this campaign. The working class needs a voice in electoral process.”

That’s all he’s asking for: to be heard.

Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]