Updated: Rep. Isaac Robinson dies at age 44, COVID-19 suspected

Rep. Isaac Robinson
Updated with additional comments, 9:48 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., 3/29/20

State Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit) has died. He was 44.

State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) confirmed the news Sunday evening to the Michigan Advance.

“He was my guy,” Carter said, adding that he was “young, smart and funny.”

Carter was the first state lawmaker to announce he tested positive for coronavirus. He said he’s “out of the woods” and feeling better.

After Rep. Carter contracts COVID-19, lawmakers, staff advised to self-quarantine

Carter said he hadn’t seen Robinson for three or four weeks. He had been trying to call Robinson and last received a text on Thursday. Robinson was excused from the last House session on March 17. That lasted around 12 hours as lawmakers negotiated a COVID-19 supplemental spending bill.

On Sunday, Carter said he received a call from Robinson’s father and was told Robinson had passed away. Carter did not know if it was due to complications of COVID-19, although he was concerned. Robinson’s mother, former state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), told Crain’s Detroit that he died at Detroit Receiving Hospital from a suspected COVID-19 infection. He had not been tested but was having trouble breathing, she said.

Isaac Robinson was elected to the 4th District in 2018 and was in his first term. He succeeded his mother, who served from 2013 to 2018. Robinson was an attorney and formerly worked for the UAW. He endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president and campaigned for him before Michigan’s March 10 primary.

He was active in the fight against COVID-19, which has torn through Detroit, co-hosting a conference call on March 16 on the impact on homeless people.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs a stay at home order to fight COVID-19, March 23, 2020 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Robinson was remembered fondly by leaders in Michigan.

“Rep. Isaac Robinson had a huge heart, a quick wit, and a genuine passion for the people. I am very sad to hear of his passing. He was a fierce advocate for Detroiters and people across Southeast Michigan. He dedicated his career to ensuring justice and security for those he served, and the impact he had on his community will continue to be felt for years to come,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

“Rep. Robinson will be missed by many, including me. It was an honor to serve the people of Michigan alongside him. My deepest condolences go out his family and loved ones, and to the people of Detroit and Hamtramck who elected him as their voice in the House.”

State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said he was “saddened by this terrible loss. Isaac Robinson was a tremendous friend and colleague, and we will all feel the sting of his passing. My prayers go out to his family, friends and the representatives here in the House who worked closely with him and knew him best. He will be sorely missed by us all.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield | Laina G. Stebbins

“I will remember Isaac as a proud son of Rose Mary, an accomplished attorney, and a talented and effective representative of the people,” Chatfield continued. “But most of all, I will remember him as a passionate defender of the City of Detroit and the people who lived there. He cared deeply for that city, and his genuine love for its residents shined through in everything he did and in every decision he made.”

State House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) said in a statement: “It is with extreme sadness that I share the passing of Rep. Isaac Robinson who was a passionate advocate for his community and constituents. Our entire Democratic Caucus is devastated by the loss of our colleague and send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote on Twitter: “There has never been a greater prince of a man than Isaac. No one who worked harder or loved his community more. No better person who has walked this earth. My heart is broken.”

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) wrote on Twitter: “This hits home. State Rep. Isaac Robinson was full of life and loved his residents. Our community won’t be the same without him.”

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist wrote on Twitter that he was “heartbroken to learn of @repWIR passing away. His love for the community was so genuine—he always pushed for more for the people.”

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) wrote on Twitter: “I met Isaac at Michigan State’s program for newly-elected state legislators, before either of us were in office. No one had more fire. No one fought harder. No one was less afraid to raise hell. This is real. My heart goes out to his family. Michigan is a little bit darker.”

Michigan Senate Democrats put out a statement: “We are absolutely heartbroken to hear of Isaac’s untimely death. Isaac was a fighter for his district and proudly carried on the family tradition of advocating for the working people of Michigan. This is just terrible news and we will hold the Robinson family close in our prayers tonight.”

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.