Throughout his exhaustive campaign for mayor while crisscrossing the city of Detroit, Mike Duggan says there is one topic that rarely if ever comes up: race.
Yet, it is a notable and historic feature of the campaign to succeed Mayor Dave Bing in leading the Motor City. If Duggan prevails in his quest to become mayor, he would interrupt the string of Black chief executives of Detroit that began with Coleman Young. Indeed, it would make him the city’s first white mayor since the end of 1973.
“I have gone to house parties and campaign events all over this city and it’s just not an issue that comes up,” Duggan said, in an interview with BET.com.
“If you were to follow me around the city, you would see what I mean,” Duggan said, “I won the Black vote by 10 to 12 points. I’ve been warmly embraced by every area of the city. I just think people are tired and ready for change. People want change. They don’t see color. And I think they feel I am committed to changing things here.”
Duggan, a former chief executive of the Detroit Medical Center has campaigned by portraying himself as a seasoned business executive who is capable of managing Detroit’s complex problems.
He emerged from Tuesday’s mayoral primary as the top vote getter in a crowded field of more than 15 candidates. His standing was even more remarkable because he ran a write-in campaign, typically a challenging uphill undertaking. He will face Benny Napoleon, the Wayne County sheriff, in the general election in November.
What does come up in conversations with voters, he says, are questions about how Detroit might possibly emerge from its staggering $18 billion debt. He said that voters are largely opposed to the decision by Michigan’s Republican governor last March to appoint an emergency financial manager to take over the city’s finances.
“My goal is to move the emergency financial manager out of the picture,” Duggan said. “My plan is to lay out a financial plan for the city for the next few years. And I think we can show the governor that Detroit doesn't need an emergency financial manager.”
Duggan overcame a number of challenging developments in his campaign to emerge as the candidate with the highest votes.
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. He described Dugeon’s presence in the race as an affront to Detroiters.
"There are 500,000 registered voters in Detroit and they go out and find the one guy whose name is close to mine," Duggan said. "But in the end, the guy got 17 write-in votes. It was an insult to the people of Detroit."
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(Photo: RYAN GARZA/AP)