THURSDAY, Aug. 13 — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor is facing a backlash, particularly within the Black community, over a recent campaign fundraising letter that states those challenging him for reelection in 2021 are “using” George Floyd’s death and COVID-19 to “tear down Lansing’s progress.”
“With all of this going on, I have not focused on fundraising or my reelection next year. But unfortunately, others are looking to 2021,” Schor wrote to would-be donors this week. “They are using these crises to try to push back against the growth accomplished and crisis management. They seek to tear down Lansing’s progress to take advantage of the tough situation we are in.”
Most of the letter is boilerplate campaign fundraising. Schor touts economic development, community engagement, sustainability efforts and more in his relatively early efforts to raise up to $150,000 before the end of the year — supposedly to match funds of an unnamed challenger.
But Black Lives Matter and other community activists are offended. Some said Schor’s “they” reference is ambiguous. Speculation is plentiful, but nobody has filed to run against him in 2021. Instead, many have interpreted his words as an attack on those seeking reforms in Lansing.
“Andy Schor is raising funds for his campaign by denigrating Black people demanding transformation to make Lansing better for EVERYONE,” according to a Facebook post from the Lansing Black Lives Matter chapter. “He reduced us to ‘they’ and has been working hard to shift the narrative to blame Black people for being obstacles to his ambitions and city progress.”
Firecracker Foundation founder and activist Tashmica Torok also sounded off on Facebook.
“He frames the blood, sweat, and tears I and my people have poured into begging for the lives and well being of our people as us 'taking advantage of' a crisis to 'tear down' the progress he's been making,” Torok posted on Facebook yesterday. “Let me be the first to NOT thank you for fundraising for your campaign after you've been asked to resign.”
Schor told City Pulse “they” only refers to some who are planning to run for mayor next year. Speculation has surrounded a possible challenge from former Mayor Virg Bernero, among others, but nobody has filed to run against Schor in next year’s primary or general election.
He simply doesn’t understand the misinterpretation circulating on social media, he explained.
“The email specifically references the importance of racial justice and equity, and the work being done in Lansing. It also references the important work being done for COVID, and work one to grow Lansing,” Schor said last night after the backlash and when asked to do so by a City Pulse reporter. “The reference being cited was regarding those taking advantage of these tough situations to raise money to run for office next year, necessitating me to raise money now.”
Schor’s recent letter includes the word “we” more than a dozen times when referring to continued growth in the city. After referencing George Floyd’s death and racial injustice, he switches to “they” to refer to those “looking to 2021” and who “seek to tear down” progress.
“This is what propaganda looks like. This is what white supremacy looks like. We demanded Andy's resignation before he launched his campaign, so not only is he a craven coward, he is a liar,” according to a recent Facebook post from the Lansing Black Lives Matter chapter.
“No candidates have come forward publicly, so he’s talking about his critics and his victims, saying we are working for these ghost candidates,” added local activist Michael Lynn Jr.
Melina Brann, executive director of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, also spoke out.
“The mayor is basically stating that we are using our experiences, the experiences of Black and brown people, our traumas, to ‘push back against growth.’ Mr. Mayor, if you believe that fighting for racial justice and equity is ‘tearing down progress’ then you need to resign,” she said. “We are not taking advantage of a situation, we are being empowered and finding our voices.”
Regardless of the possible misinterpretation, Schor’s controversial letter represents a relatively early jump into his reelection campaign. He isn’t naming names, but he suggested that multiple people have expressed an interest over the last few months in running for mayor next year.
Besides Bernero, names being mentioned are state Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, and City Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley. But Bernero is the only one publicly indicating an interest. He told City Pulse last week thar he was “50/50” on running again.
In the letter, he brags about the recent approval of a new downtown hotel and grocery store and the beginning of the Red Cedar renaissance project during his tenure. He also mentions the hiring of a sustainability manager, a Citizen Advocate and other positions since he took office.
“Can you commit to a contribution now? $50? $100? More? Something that shows that you support the growth of Lansing, and the efforts I have taken to ensure that no one is left behind during the crisis?” Schor asked would-be donors. “We need to show that our time is right now.”
Schor added today:
"While my focus has been on growing the city of Lansing and addressing the crises that we are facing, it is my understanding that there are people who are exploring running for mayor next year. I am disappointed to hear that potential challengers are trying to raise money by tearing down both me and Lansing, and I need to raise money to counter any negative claims and prepare for the election coming up next year."