Detroit's Mayoral Race Is 'The Most Important In 50 Years' And It's Already Turning Into A Disaster

blighted detroit clean upA worker removes trees and brush from front of a house during a blight removal project in the Brightmoor neighbourhood in Detroit, Michigan July 16, 2013. If you want to tackle Detroit’s thousands of abandoned homes and trash-strewn and overgrown lots, there are few better places to start than in Brightmoor in the northwestern corner of the city.

Detroit has finally filed for bankruptcy, and some say things couldn’t get any worse.

They may want to take a look at how the mayor’s race is shaping up.

The first thing you need to know is that fundraising leader Mike Duggan’s bid was derailed after a judge threw him off the ballot after he failed to meet residency requirements. He must now run as a write-in.

The former Detroit Medical centre CEO, Duggan has the defacto backing of Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert, the guy who’s spending more than $1 billion to revive downtown Detroit.

Duggan has raised more than $1 million, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Matt Helsm and Joe Guillen. The paper itself recently endorsed him.

Duggan also has the support of at least one of the young professionals we interviewed in our piece on people moving back to Detroit. Jeff Winkler, a vice president at Morgan Stanley, told us in an email:

Duggan is the type of change that Detroit needs. He has the ability to transform the city and make it the Detroit that it can be.

Write-in candidacies are never easy, and Duggan was given less than a month to win votes for the August 6 primary. 

But this week, things got even stranger. 

A barber named Mike Dugeon — who pronounces his name “Duggan” — announced he would wage a write-in campaign. 

As Freep’s Matt Helms and Marlon Walker note, having two write-in candidates with the same-sounding last name could lead to disasters in voter booths:

Dugeon turned in paperwork Thursday declaring his intent, adding a last-minute potential spoiler to Duggan’s long-shot write-in bid. Dugeon’s candidacy could throw a serious wrench into how write-in votes cast for Duggan are counted, particularly those that are misspelled.

Freep columnist Brian Dickerson said Dugeon’s bid is “the symptom of a pathology, and potentially a victim of cynical fixers who dismiss him and other Detroiters as sub-citizens unworthy of dignity or respect.”

Duggan himself has dismissed the subject.

All this favours Benny Napoleon, the current Wayne County Sheriff and one-time Detroit Police chief. He has maintained Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment of emergency manager Kevyn Orr was illegal.

That’s not such an outlandish view — Freep said it demonstrated Napoleon’s “passion for the democratic right to cast a ballot.”

But the paper laid into his qualifications:

Napoleon’s projected $30-million deficit in fiscal year 2012-13 mounted while he carried a staggering 41 appointees on the payroll making an average of $84,000 a year, and while the sheriff insisted he could find only about $2 million in savings.

“You don’t spend money you don’t have,” Napoleon said, when asked how he would balance the city’s budget. “That’s the simple answer.”

Right. But he hasn’t met that standard as sheriff.

And on his tenure as police chief:

…it would be a challenge to describe his tenure as DPD chief successful. Napoleon’s three years in the role ended with a Department of Justice investigation, initiated by the Detroit City Council. The department is still operating under a federal consent decree, which has cost the city about $10 million to date.

Winkler told us the race will define the city for generations:

I truly believe that the outcome of the mayoral race and city council is the most important in the last 50 years. If Detroit is going to reinvent itself it needs to start here.

In total, there are 13 candidates running. In their endorsement note, Freep called them, “far from ideal, with too few truly qualified hopefuls.”


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