When running for statewide elective office, it helps to be able to claim ties to as many cities as possible. And so John James, the Republican Senate hopeful who lives in Farmington Hills and previously lived in Southfield, is claiming Detroit.
A billboard in the city, at Woodward and State Fair, tells passersby the businessman is "Detroit raised." And it's a claim that could have impact for a Black candidate in an increasingly tight contest against Sen. Gary Peters — one on pace to be Michigan's most expensive in history, as it could determine which party controls the Senate.
James lost his quieter 2018 Senate bid against incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow by 275,700 votes, about 7,000 of them from voters in Detroit.
So how Detroit is he, really?
James was born in the city, and lived on a secluded street of stately homes behind the private Detroit Golf Club, those who know his family say and property records indicate. He left in "about the third, fourth grade" for Southfield, he recently told the India League of America, where he attended a private Christian school until going to private Catholic Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills.
I personally moved to Michigan from Massachusetts in about third, fourth grade. I've never claimed Massachusetts — but then again, I'm not applying for a job there.
Still, fourth grade is about nine years old, which is half of one's upbringing. Excluding the years where one is a mindless spud, however, it's only a third. Does that qualify as "raised?"
We put the question to metro Detroiters without mentioning the candidate. Most people said they took "raised" in Detroit to mean living there anywhere from the age of 10 through high school. Some said attending school in the city was also a must to credibly make the claim. One person said someone is truly Detroit-raised when they can say "what up doe" without eliciting a sideways glance.
Another said those who claim "raised" should only be questioned if they criticize the city.
And that James is doing too. While he may wish to tout his Detroit roots to snap up votes, he's still a Republican who decries the Democratic city's politics, and just this week seemed to liken it to an authoritarian socialist state in the midst of an economic crisis.
"Senator Peters would be less than a speed bump against the leftist move toward anarchy and socialism," James said Thursday on "Fox & Friends." "We've already seen how that story plays out in Detroit when you let the leftists take over. We don't need to go to Venezuela.”
(Venezuela's problems, we should point out, have less to do with its politics than the fact that its leaders built the country's economy around the value of oil.)