Detroit Mayoral Race Down to Two: Duggan and Napoleon

A crowded primary is whittled down to two, including a country sheriff and a businessman making an effort to be Detroit’s first white mayor since the 1970s.

Posted: 08/07/2013 08:40 AM EDT

Benny Napoleon addressed supporters after the final primary election results. (Photo: AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Jarrad Henderson)

The crowded primary for mayor of the financially troubled city of Detroit narrowed to two candidates: Benny Napoleon, the Wayne County sheriff, and Mike Duggan, the former chief executive of the Detroit Medical Center.

The most stunning development in the result of Tuesday’s primary was the support for Duggan, who soared to the position of top vote receiver as a result of a write-in campaign. It is one of the uncommon examples of a highly successful write-in campaign.

The two candidates will face each other in the general election on Nov. 5. The winner will succeed Mayor Dave Bing, who did not seek re-election to a second term.

Napoleon has spent the campaign stressing his native Detroit roots and what he described as his common-sense approach to solving the city’s fiscal troubles. According to preliminary results, Napoleon received 30 percent of the vote, with Krystal Crittendon, a former Detroit corporation counsel, placing second-highest among those whose names were on the ballot, with 6 percent.

However, the results indicated that 53 percent of the votes cast were write-in ballots and that Duggan received about 47 percent.  

The results place Duggan in a strong position of becoming the first white mayor of the overwhelmingly Black Detroit in four decades.

Two months ago, Duggan’s campaign received a setback when he was kicked off the ballot for a residency issue after it was determined that he moved within the city limits a month too late.

Duggan then decided to launch a write-in campaign, a painstaking and uphill undertaking. That effort, too, was rocked by the candidate filing just days before the primary of a 31-year-old barber with no political experience named Mike Dugeon, who registered as a write-in candidate.

"There was one message tonight: Detroiters wanted change," said Duggan to about 1,000 supporters who cheered him after the results came in late Tuesday night.  

"My opponent went out and aired negative ads," Duggan said. "Then, out of the city’s 500,000 registered voters, they found Mike Dugeon."

Similarly, Napoleon told his supporters that he was in the difficult position of running against Duggan, who he said spent lavishly.

"This was never supposed to be easy," Napoleon said. "The stakes are way too high for this to be easy."

A major issue is whether the mayor will have much power to affect change in Michigan’s largest city after the state’s Republican governor appointed an emergency financial manager in March.

That manager, Kevyn Orr, has nearly unlimited power to shape Detroit’s finances, including the high-profile and controversial decision to file for bankruptcy.

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