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Kathie Dunbar remains optimistic in Lansing's mayoral race despite financial disadvantage

Posted at 7:29 PM, Oct 14, 2021

LANSING, Mich. — Kathie Dunbar raised just a fraction of the money brought in by Mayor Andy Schor, her opponent in the city's mayoral race, but the city councilwoman still believes she’s the best person to lead the city.

“My donors are Lansing residents, friends and families who support my vision for Lansing,” Dunbar said. “A lot of those donors that are coming in on the high end for him are out of the area, their special interest, they’re PACs, and they have a financial interest in keeping him in office.”

Dunbar’s campaign has raised just over $35,000, compared to the $312,000 Schor has raised, but she said she doesn’t think Schor’s financial advantage will help him win another term.

Mayor Andy Schor and Kathie Dunbar

“He spent $125,000 to come through the primary and still didn’t get half the votes. I spent #16,000, so I don’t know if you can buy someone’s votes when there’s that much distrust,” Dunbar said.

Schor received not quite 6,200 votes, about 48 percent of the total. Dunbar racked up more than 2,500.

“I don’t know if she put in the hours in the spring to raise her numbers up to really get at Schor and beat him,” said Kyle Melinn, editor of the Michigan Information and Research Service.

But Dunbar said she’s not letting those numbers discourage her and is focusing on a campaign that promotes change in the city.

“Our campaign is positive messaging” she said. “We are trying to move the city forward, do post pandemic economic relief. We want to make sure that we have racial justice in the city. We want fair, equitable affordable housing for folks. We’re looking at reducing gun violence, and all of the things that I’m talking about have concrete result driven plans.”

Dunbar has been on the City Council for 16 years. If elected, she’ll be the first woman to serve as Lansing's mayor.

Kathie Dunbar's campaign sign

“Kathie seemed to be genuine, she seemed to be energetic and seemed to have love for the city of Lansing,” said Barbara Tate, one of her supporters.

“I’m glad she’s been able to focus on what she’s doing and her campaign without getting too far down the negative ad campaign rabbit hole,” said Ryan Wert, another backer.

Dunbar announced her run for Lansing mayor in April and not even 24 hours later was accused of making racially insensitive and sexually inappropriate comments to Rina Risper, publisher of The New Citizens’ Press.

“Those allegations were strategic in their timing,” Dunbar said. "They came from someone on Mayor Schor’s transition team who benefited from him standing in office and who said very clearly after the primary that they’re backing Schor. So, there was a definite reason why that came out. So allegedly, these things happened 16 years ago and nothing has been said about them in prior elections, even when I ran against her.”

Melinn has been covering Lansing politics for over 20 years and he predicts Schor will defeat Dunbar.

“She doesn’t project the presence in leadership and that’s always been kind of the knock on Dunbar,” Melinn said. “That’s why she’s always struggled to become the president of City Council, even though she’s got the seniority. There’s always been that stumbling block of is she really the kind of person that we want representing the City Council in a leadership role and that’s a hesitation we have for her as she runs for mayor.”

But despite the doubts, Dunbar is optimistic that her love for Lansing will help her be Lansing’s next mayor.

“When you own a vehicle, you take care of it differently than when you lease a vehicle because ultimately, you’re going to give it back and then move on,” Dunbar said. “I’m not leasing Lansing. This mayor is leasing Lansing. Lansing is my home and this will be the last position I ever hold, and that’s where my focus is.”

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