DETROIT - The Detroit mayoral election is making national news with former Detroit Medical CEO Mike Duggan, who is white, beating the city's former police chief and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon by 55 to 45 percent.
In the August mayoral primary Duggan, who had moved to the city from a nearby suburb, was forced to run as a write-in candidate. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled he did not fulfill the one year residency requirement of the Detroit City Charter. He was allowed to run as a write-in candidate and then surprised many by beating second place finisher Napoleon by 20,000 votes, qualifying him for ballot status in the November election.
For the general election Napoleon battled back and closed the gap between the two but could not overcome Duggan's backing of the business community, his five to one cash advantage, and what many think was a bias for Duggan by the major media.
With the city under the rule of an Emergency Manager, services being cut and unemployment at crisis levels, frustrations and hopelessness are high. Those factors also seemed to generate sentiment for the newcomer Duggan.
This is not the first time Detroit has elected white candidates. For many years renowned and dearly loved councilperson Maryann Mahaffey was at times the top vote getter in city wide elections. The difference today is Mahaffey was a progressive who earned the trust of voters for her dedication to labor rights, civil rights and justice issues. Duggan has not acquired the same credentials.
The city's Emergency Manager's term ends in one year when the new mayor will assume full powers. No matter who had won, how to generate jobs beyond the narrow strip of downtown development taking place is critical. Absent assistance from state and federal sources, something along the magnitude the auto companies and banks received, it is difficult to imagine how those jobs will be created.
This year the city reverted to district council elections and Southwest Detroit with its large Latino population now has its first representative on the council, community activist and social worker Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.
Promising election results were seen in Oakland County. The county, once a Republican stronghold, is changing quickly. Royal Oak became the 30th city in the state to pass a Human Rights ordinance. The ballot language asked voters whether they wish to amend the city code to "prohibit discrimination based upon actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status."
The proposal withstood a strong opposition and prevailed 54 to 46 percent.
At a jubilant election eve party, the city's Mayor Jim Ellison said the victory can't be underestimated as many cities across the state were watching results to determine if the political climate is ripe for introducing similar measures. "The floodgates are going to open," said the Mayor.
In Troy, former Tea Party Mayor Janice Daniels who was recalled in 2012 after posting anti-gay comments on her Facebook page mounted a new campaign for city council. Daniels, who was also criticized for opposing a new transit center, was denied again.
Photo: John Rummel/PW