Detroit Mayoral Race Called Two-Man Contest: Is Race an Issue?

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Detroit Mayoral Race Called Two-Man Contest: Is Race an Issue?
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Detroit. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/brostad.)

Detroit has an 82-percent black population and hasn't had a white mayor in 44 years. Bloomberg says Detroit's mayoral race has been plagued with "rivalries and racial rifts." Two contenders are tied for first place: one black and one white. Is race the biggest issue in Motown's upcoming election?

Contenders

Based on a Main Street Strategies poll conducted in mid-April, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan share three-quarters of popular support. Napoleon leads with 39 percent to Duggan's 35 percent, says the Detroit Free Press. Polltaker Joe DiSano called the mayoral race a Napoleon vs. Duggan "dogfight."

Detroit's incumbent Mayor Dave Bing hasn't said whether he'll run again, but he did start the paperwork, says WWJ/Associated Press. Bloomberg says Bing has about 8 percent of public favor. Other candidates include State Rep. Fred Durhal, former State Rep. Lisa Howze, and former corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon. Three-time mayoral contender Tom Barrow put his bid in, says the Detroit News.

Race and Residency Questions

Barrow, says Bloomberg, called Duggan an "outsider" and "not one of us" in early April. He's accused Duggan of prejudice, bigotry, and a "subliminal appeal to Detroit whites." Duggan has only been a Detroit citizen since last year. He moved from nearby Livonia, Michigan, though he was born in Detroit. Napoleon, the United Auto Workers' pick for mayor, referred to Duggan's recent move, saying, "Detroit is not my hobby -- it is my home," reports The We Party.

EM Takeover Considerations

Regardless of who's elected mayor, he or she won't control the city. Detroit is under state-mandated emergency management in the person of Kevyn Orr. The city is deep in debt, and Orr was charged by Gov. Rick Snyder to turn it around. Whoever takes office does so as Orr's subordinate. Duggan told Michigan Radio he's better qualified than an EM in turnaround. Duggan says EM fixes won't last and that job one is to get rid of emergency management. Duggan himself has been in the takeover role. Gov. Snyder appointed him to the Education Achievement Authority that took over schools.

City Services and Debt

City deficits are nearing $400 million, according to Bloomberg. I spoke with Charles Brown, who works for the Krystal Crittendon for Mayor of Detroit campaign. He said Crittendon is concerned with fixing fiscal problems and restoring city services, public health, safety, and welfare. Her priority is debt collection. "The state has done nothing to collect the hundreds of millions of dollars of debts owed to the City of Detroit, including by the State itself," said Brown.

Detroit's Best Interests

Quicken Loans mogul Dan Gilbert, who owns about a quarter of downtown Detroit, reports Detroit Unspun, says the mayoral race is not about who, but what. WWJ/Associated Press quoted Gilbert at a recent Pancakes and Politics breakfast: "If the mayor, you know, takes over -- whoever it may be -- and they just run it simply from a one-question standpoint: Every decision I make will be guided by what is best for the city's, you know, short-term and long-term interests and nothing else … I think you'll see progress."

An educator and Michigan native, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about politics, people, and issues in her state's most pivotal city of Detroit.

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