For The First Time, Detroit's Next Mayor May Be A Write-In Candidate

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It's almost safe to say that barring any legal challenges or any other sudden opposition, Mike Duggan, a former county prosecutor and hospital-system CEO, is going to be Detroit's next mayor come January, a feat we all saw coming.


Last night was Detroit's primary and Duggan pulled 46% of the electorate, beating his closest contender, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon who pulled 30%. If you haven't been keeping up with Detroit politics, here's a brief reason why this is big.

Duggan moved from Livonia to Detroit last year. He was called every carpetbagging term in the book when he finally announced he was running for mayor (while openly pussyfooting in the media for months at a time before the official candidacy). Because his petition declaring his residency missed an official deadline, he was kicked off the ballot. Duggan and his camp then staged a write-in campaign, but was almost side-stepped when opponents found a 31-year-old barber named Mike Dugeon to confuse voters.

Through it all, Duggan and Napoleon remained frontrunners, but neither one was exactly perfect. Duggan was found to have been advising Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on the appointment of bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr as a then-potential emergency manager; Napoleon's entire campaign has been built on the concept of "real Detroiter," when no one knows exactly who a "real Detroiter" is. Supporters will say that an overwhelming amount of people wrote-in Duggan because they were tired of the same ol', same ol', but cynics will say that Duggan was the least of all evils and this was merely a roll of the dice.


You're probably going to read a lot about how Duggan might be Detroit's first white mayor since 1974 (that was Roman Gribbs, just before Coleman Young held court for two decades), but the bigger milestone here is that Detroit hasn't had a major write-in campaign for mayor since 1925. That candidate came close but didn't win (which is good, because history would've frowned upon his support from the KKK), but Duggan's chances look pretty good here. When was the last time any major city elected a major write-in candidate?

Some of the mud-slinging has already begun, including this soundbite tossed out by Napoleon last night:


I'm personally not worried about Napoleon dividing MidCorkDown from the rest of Detroit since, as it turns out, there's a bunch of people in MidCorkDown not voting anyway. Napoleon should probably hit the streets everywhere else (I never saw him campaigning in my neighborhood, but in the run-up to the election, the Duggan signs were starting to take over) and try to convince everyone otherwise of that lying-about-the-feds report going around.


Another historic note: Detroit may also elect its first Latina city councilmember in the form of Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, a grassroots candidate who upset perceived frontrunner Vince Keenan, who was endorsed by both of Detroit dailies but ended up placing third. That was in District 6, where we're (begrudgingly) having conversations about the identity of Southwest Detroit. I don't live in District 6, but I'm curious to see how that whole scenario plays out in the coming years.


Detroiters also elected a wave of new faces to advance to the general election for the next City Council, further defeating the mindset that name recognition is all you need to get by in Detroit politics. But there is cautious optimism to be had. Once upon a time, Charles Pugh was a new face for City Council, and look where he is now. Actually, no one knows where to look.



There are few examples of greater mass incompetence than metro Detroiters voting for elected officials. Here's hoping this puts an end to that legacy. Duggan seems capable, at least.

Sad and, frankly, pathetic to see how few Detroiters even bother to vote. Some precincts were reporting single digit voter turnout by late morning yesterday. This is nothing new. Historically, at least for the past few decades, Detroit has one of the worst voter turnout statistics of any electorate, which is especially troubling considering the mile-long list of crises facing the city. One would logically think that people would be concerned about this and eager to cast their votes. Apparently they don't care enough to bother. Apathy...the root of nearly all of Detroit's problems.

Hope Detroit finds a way to pull it together. I've said for years, I'm concerned that it is too late for a turnaround. Although the odds are stacked against it, perhaps Detroit can find a way to stop the gushing hemorrhage. I'd love to see some evidence of intelligent decisions. Maybe Duggan's primary win is a start.