L. Brooks Patterson, a GOP stalwart and longtime Oakland County executive who made a name for himself fighting busing in metro Detroit, died Saturday after a fight with pancreatic cancer.
The Detroit News and multiple news outlets reported Saturday morning that Patterson, 80, died at 5:30 a.m. in his home in Independence Township.
“L. Brooks Patterson devoted his life to public service and the fruits of his leadership touched countless lives,” Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox said in a statement.
In March, Patterson announced at a press conference that he had “career-ending” stage 4 cancer and would not run for an eighth term in 2020. However, Patterson said he would finish up his current term, to which he was elected in 2016.
“This is not a goodbye,” Patterson said at the time. “I have every intention of coming back and finishing out the term.”
Patterson was elected Oakland County executive in 1992, but his career in Oakland County politics spanned a half-century, dating back to his time as county prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s. He garnered significant attention representing a group fighting busing for racial integration, an issue that has come to the forefront in the Democratic presidential debates. Patterson frequently took shots at Detroit, even in recent years.
Patterson unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1982, losing the GOP nomination to Dick Headlee, for which Michigan’s tax-limit amendment is named. Democrat Jim Blanchard won the general election.
Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson will now serve as county executive, the Detroit News reports, until either the Democratic-controlled Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor within 30 days or a special election is held.
Two Democrats, Oakland County Clerk Andy Meisner and county board Chair Dave Woodward are running in 2020. Oakland County has been trending blue in recent years and Democrats have been expected to have a good shot at taking the top office next year. Meisner remembered his in a Facebook post Saturday morning.
As for Republicans, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and former U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) have been viewed as possible contenders next year.
“Today, is the end of an era in Oakland County,” Bouchard said in a statement. “Brooks Patterson was a steadfast leader, who safeguarded Oakland County’s fiscal stability in good times and in bad.”
Patterson was eulogized by several other political figures on Saturday, including state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).
“Brooks Patterson was larger than life. He did not mince words nor suffer fools,” said Shirkey. “Brooks had a vision for Oakland County that made it one of the most prosperous places in the country. He dedicated his life to public service and was a champion for his fellow citizens. Michigan has lost a leader and a visionary, but his legacy will live on.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) said Patterson was “always my friend.”
Brooks Patterson was always my friend. We could disagree, but he did it with such humor it was always respectful. He loved Michigan, he loved Oakland county, his family and friends. https://t.co/s5deHVFLu7
— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) August 3, 2019