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Detroit Poised for 1st White Mayor in 40 Years as Mike Duggan Wins Primary

photo credit: Michigan’s Children

Detroit may be on the verge of getting its first white mayor in 40 years, as Mike Duggan, the former head of the Detroit Medical Center, handily beat his closest rival yesterday by more than 20 points in the  primary, using an unprecedented write-in campaign after his name was removed from the ballot.

In the city that has been rocked by fiscal woes that led to it becoming the largest in American history to file for bankruptcy, the turnout in the election was woefully low.  An estimated 15 to 17 percent of registered voters made it to the polls, after early projections put the turnout at a scarily low 8 percent.

Duggan garnered 52 percent of the vote in a field of 16 candidates, easily besting presumed front-runner Benny Napoleon, the former Detroit police chief and current Wayne County sheriff, who got 30 percent of the vote and who will now face Duggan in November’s general election.

“There was one message tonight: Detroiters wanted change,” Duggan said on Tuesday night at a rally downtown. “Six weeks ago, I was out of this campaign. I thought it was over. But the volunteers inspired me.”

“I’m elated that we, in fact, made history, but I also know that everything starts over,” Palencia Mobley, a Duggan supporter, told The Grio.

“The button has been reset and this campaign will focus on the issues and the plan to improve the city. Winning the primary does not guarantee the general election. I think it gives us momentum, but we have to be focused on what needs to be done to secure victory in November.”

The last time Detroit had a white mayor was in 1969 when Roman Gribbs ran the city, stepping down in 1973 to clear the way for then-state Sen. Coleman Young to become the first black mayor in the city’s history.

Young served five terms from 1974-1993.  Since he left office, there have been four mayors: Dennis Archer, Kwame Kilpatrick, Kenneth Cockrel Jr. (on an interim basis from 2008-2009), and Dave Bing. 

Duggan went on a yearlong tour of the city, organizing community meetings with residents in their homes and building his popularity with both younger and older voters yearning to get past the years of racial bickering.

“Every single person is valued,” Duggan said in February when he announced his campaign. “Whether you are black, brown, or white; Arab or Chaldean; gay or straight. Whether you were born in the city or you were born in another country; if you want to come to Detroit to be apart of our future, you [are] just as welcome as everybody else.

“There have been too many businesses and potential investors over the years that have been scared off by the ‘us vs. them’ divisive rhetoric. It has not served the city well and tonight is the night we put that to rest once and for all.”

Duggan, a former county prosecutor who was born in Detroit, established his bona fides by rescuing and bringing the Detroit Medical Center to profitability after it faced closure in 2004, having lost $500 million over the previous five years.

But in June, Duggan was kicked off the election ballot when a state judge ruled in favor of candidate Tom Barrow, who said that Duggan had not been a resident of the city for a full year by the time he filed.

Duggan had moved back to Detroit from nearby Livonia in April 2012, thinking he had to be a resident for one year by the filing deadline, not the day he filed.


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