Former medical center chief Mike Duggan has a comfortable lead over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon with 78 percent of the precincts counted in Detroit’s mayoral race.
Duggan had 55 percent of the vote in the counting Tuesday night. Napoleon had about 44 percent. Write-ins account for the rest. The winner takes over in January from Mayor Dave Bing, who didn’t seek re-election.
A federal judge is overseeing a trial that will determine if Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy protection. State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr in July made Detroit the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. Both Napoleon and Duggan oppose the Michigan takeover of city finances by gubernatorial appointee Kevin Orr.
“I’m going to try to shorten Kevyn Orr’s stay,” Duggan told The Associated Press.
The emergency financial manager filed for bankruptcy in July and says Detroit’s debt is at least $18 billion, much of it for retiree pensions and health benefits.
Duggan said he wants to persuade Gov. Rick Snyder to craft a plan to resuscitate the city’s fiscal condition.
Snyder has repeatedly defended his decision to put Orr in the driver’s seat at City Hall.
“Detroit’s fiscal crisis was six decades in the making,” Snyder said in a statement last week. “My job is to make the tough decisions to resolve the problems we face today, not ignore them.”
A poll released last week showed Napoleon lagging well behind Duggan, who also holds an almost 3-to-1 fundraising and spending edge. If Duggan is elected, he would become Detroit’s first white mayor since Roman Gribbs, whose term ended at the end of 1973. The city now is more than 80 percent black.
Napoleon, who is black, also predicted victory.
“Mike and I have always been fine. This is not personal. It’s politics,” he said after voting Tuesday morning. “At the end of the day, I’m going to win and he’s going to lose.”
Both candidates campaigned on fixing Detroit’s deteriorating neighborhoods and reducing the high crime rate.
Larry Waldon, a process technician at a plastics company, voted for Napoleon, because he says the sheriff is truly invested in the city.
“I really think Mike Duggan would be a great choice short-term, not long-term,” said Waldon, 38, who believes Duggan wants to use the mayor’s job as a stepping stone to higher office.
Transportation company owner Mark Gibson, 51, argued that Napoleon was “just part of the status quo.”
“I think they’re kidding themselves if they think they are going to regain financial control of this city,” said Detroit-based bankruptcy attorney Kenneth Schneider. “Even after Kevyn Orr, there will be a financial advisory board that will maintain control of the city’s finances indefinitely. The first part for any new mayor is to accept that and work with the state on how to right this city’s finances.”