The Detroit mayoral primary field of 24 has been narrowed down to two. With precincts reporting at 100 percent, it appears that two contenders, former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, carried 76 percent of vote, leaving the other candidates in the dust.
Reports show that 53 percent of votes cast were write-ins. Of those, Duggan appears to have reined in 88 percent — or 46 percent of the total vote.
There’s a reason for this uncharacteristically high write-in turnout. Duggan had moved to Detroit from the suburb of Livonia before the election, but he fell two weeks of short of completing a required year of residency in the city. For this, he was removed from the ballot in June. He then left the race before deciding to try his luck as a write-in candidate. (Mike Dugeon, a barber who entered the race possibly to create voter confusion over his and Duggan’s similar names, only managed 17 votes.)
When Duggan arrived at the Detroit Medical Center in 2004, the health care complex had lost close to $500 million over the previous five years. Five months into his presidency, it began to turn a profit. Before his success at the medical center, Duggan served as deputy Wayne County executive from 1987 to 2000, and as Wayne County prosecutor from 2001 to 2003. If he wins, he’ll be the first white person elected mayor of Detroit since 1969.
The Detroit News reports that Duggan attended 25 church events, visited 40 senior citizen centers and and hosted 185 house parties in recent weeks to reach out to supporters and ensure that they spelled his name just right. “This wasn’t about the ground game,” he told the paper. “This was a message election. The city wants change.”
Napoleon, a lifelong Detroiter, looks to have carried 30 percent of the vote. He began his career as a trainee officer at the Detroit Police Department in 1975, climbing the ranks until he was appointed chief of police in 1998. He was named assistant Wayne County executive in 2004 and appointed sheriff in 2009, for which he handily won reelection in 2012.
Napoleon reacted to the early returns in front of supporters at the the Teamsters Michigan Conference.
“This was never supposed to be easy,” he told the crowd, according to the Detroit Free Press. “They have outspent me 4-1, but I’m here. There have been attempts to break our spirit, to suppress our vote, an emergency manager, bankruptcy, evidence that it was the plan all along, reduced to ‘dumb and lazy,’ but our spirit cannot, will not and must not be broken.”
Cassie Owens is a regular contributor to Next City. Her writing has also appeared at CNN.com, Philadelphia City Paper and other publications.