Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oakland County Year of the Woman

Will Lawrence, Cooper lead 'year of the woman'?
By Pat Murphy

When political pundits speak of the "Year of the Woman," voters usually think Hillary Clinton - even though Barack Obama holds the lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nominee.

But with the May 13 filing deadline less than two months away, it looks like 2008 could be the year of the woman in Oakland County as well.

At least half of the candidates for the top political jobs in Oakland County will be women in the Aug. 5 primary or the Nov. 4 general election.

"It's about time, don't you think?" said Jessica Cooper, the former Oakland Circuit judge running as a Democrat for prosecutor, where incumbent Republican David Gorcyca is not seeking re-election.

Cooper lives in Beverly Hills and was a judge in the Southfield-based 46th District Court from 1977 until 1986, when she became an Oakland circuit judge. She resigned that post in 2000, and currently practices law from her office in Bingham Farms.

Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, who is expected to announce her candidacy for county executive on April 1, also thinks it's time for new ideas and fresh thinking. As a Democrat, Lawrence would be challenging incumbent L. Brooks Patterson, a Republican.

It was a Republican, Ruth Johnson who in 2004 became the first woman to be elected county clerk/register of deeds in recent history.

"I'm definitely running again," said Johnson, who broke the gender barrier by defeating incumbent William Caddell in the GOP primary.

Clerk/register of deeds is one of the most important and influential elected positions in county government. The others, in addition to executive, are sheriff, prosecutor, treasurer and drain commissioner - currently held by Republicans Patterson, Michael Bouchard, David Gorcyca, Patrick Dohany and John McCulloch, respectively.

Women have held one or two of those positions briefly, said Tracy Warner, spokesperson for the clerk's office. But generally men have dominated those elected positions for decades, according to county records.

Neither Cooper, Lawrence nor Johnson thinks being a woman is - or should be - the main qualification for holding public office.

"There's no substitute for experience or qualifications," said the clerk.

But they also know times have changed.

"It's a different ball game," Johnson said. Many voters want elected officials to reflect the general population when it comes to age, ethnic background, gender and occupation, she said.

"And I think more people want to get involved in public service," Johnson said.

A complete list of candidates who have filed nominating petitions - or paid the $100 filing fee as an alternative - is available in the election division of the clerk's Web site,

When it comes to the races for county commission in the 21st District (Berkley, Lathrup Village and northeast Southfield) three candidates, all Democrats, have filed. They are Kyrian Nwagwu of Lathrup Village and Roy Bell and Charles Robinson, both of Southfield.

The three are vying to succeed Vincent Gregory who is running for the state representative position currently held by Paul Condino.

No one has filed in the 23rd District (most of Southfield) nobody has yet filed to challenge incumbent Democrat Eric Coleman, who said he was filing for re-election Friday afternoon.

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