Free Press: So far, Peters ahead of rivals in diverse new congressional district

Kathleen Gray – What had the makings of an epic battle between two sitting congressmen is evolving into a one-sided race for the newly drawn 14th District congressional seat, which encompasses a large swath of Wayne and Oakland counties.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Bloomfield Township, is beating all Democratic comers with ease in fund-raising and endorsements, including his congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke of Detroit. Other contenders for the seat include former state Rep. Mary Waters of Detroit and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence.

To build his lead, Peters quickly reached out to labor unions — a key ingredient for Democratic campaigns, not only for financial help but for volunteers on the ground.

He has nurtured that relationship with meetings in Washington and appearances back home. When some key organized labor officials went to Washington to meet with lawmakers in February, Peters made himself available but Clarke didn’t, said Ed Sarpolus, a political consultant in Lansing. When the Trade Union Leadership Council held its annual Good Friday fish fry — a must-attend event for politicians at all levels — Peters, Waters and Lawrence made the rounds, but Clarke did not.

“It’s pretty amazing how quickly the labor vote coalesced behind one candidate,” he said. Supporters also are looking at accomplishments in Congress, said Joe DiSano of Main Street Strategies, a political consulting firm in Lansing.

“Gary Peters is seen as having a more reliable, steady hand on the wheel. On some of the financial reform stuff, Peters really made a mark,” he said. “I can’t tell you what Hansen Clarke has done, except propose some fairly preposterous policy stuff. Most people recognize that his ideas are pie in the sky.”