Drama in Detroit mayoral primary

Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon will duke it out in Detroit’s mayoral election.
Photo Courtesy of The Detroit News

By AARON YNCLAN, Staff Writer

If you were to compare the circumstances surrounding the Detroit Mayoral Primaries to that of a soap opera television drama, you’d find quite a few similarities; controversies run rampant, characters (candidates) are constantly bickering at one another, and there is no shortage of entertainment. This might not be the description one would wish to associate with a political election, but there are unfortunately few depictions that can better describe the current state of affairs surrounding the Detroit election.

As many are aware, the Detroit elections have been featured rather heavily in the news for the past few months. With a seemingly never-ending list of problems that have plagued the city for years, ranging from the Kwame Kilpatrick trials to the city being placed under the guidance of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, it’s no secret that Detroit residents are desperate for change. Unfortunately, while the issues and the candidate’s policies should be the primary focus, it seems that all attention has instead been invested in the troubles surrounding the election. And much of the circus has largely revolved around primary election winner Mike Duggan.

Photo Courtesy of The Detroit Free Press

Mike Duggan, the former Detroit Medical Center CEO, announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year, stating that the city needs someone who’s “very skilled in financial issues, turnaround issues and in attracting businesses into this town to create jobs for the people in this community.” Since his announcement, however, his campaign has been plagued with numerous disputes.

His troubles first began back in June when fellow mayoral candidate Tom Barrow and labor activist Robert Davis filed a lawsuit claiming that he had applied for candidacy too early for him to be considered. The law states that a candidate must be a resident for at least one year to be eligible for candidacy, and Duggan had unfortunately filed his forms two weeks too early.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think you could be knocked off a ballot for filing petitions too soon,” said Duggan. Though he was initially discouraged from this development and announced his campaign to be over, Duggan soon retracted this statement by announcing that he would run as a write-in candidate.

More troubles followed, however, in the form of fellow write-in candidate Michael Dugeon. Mr. Dugeon, a barber with no record of having ever voted in an election before, announced that he planned to run for mayor of Detroit back in July.

“Initially, it was brought to my attention to stir things up,” Dugeon said in an interview held in his shop. “But when I thought about it, I thought this would be a chance for the common man to be heard. It might be a joke (to some) at first. But I’m passionate about where I’m from. I think that, in itself, is enough criteria.”

Despite Dugeon’s enthusiasm, his announcement was truly seen as a joke by more than just “some,” as most voters truly believed him to be his announcement to be a mockery. Others felt differently, however, as rumors soon began swirling around that he had been put up by someone to run as a write-in merely to draw votes away from fellow candidate Mike Duggan. While these rumors were unsubstantiated, they still added nothing except more drama to the weekly lineup.

The most recent argument occurred following the announcement that Duggan had won the Detroit Primary, in which fellow candidate Tom Barrow called for the tossing out of more than 20,000 votes from Wayne County. His reasoning, amidst claims of fraud, were derived from the differing methods used for the recording of votes, in which some votes were marked using numerals rather than hash marks. Barrow’s call for the discardment of these votes, however, proved fruitless as the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously for the acceptance of the votes.

“What you’re asking,” said state elections director Chris Thomas, “is for us to certify the Wayne County totals – where it is clear – that twenty-four thousand voters in the city of Detroit votes would not be counted. That is disenfranchisement.”

If you were to ask Dearborn students how they felt about the Detroit elections, the most common answer would be one of confusion and uncertainty. “Not much,” said Intervarsity member Cliff Haines, “I know there’s something going on but that’s it.”

This is an unfortunate sentiment, yet one that is hard to contradict. Between the persistence on the turmoil surrounding the candidates and the lack of focus on how Detroit may prosper after the elections, it’s difficult to ask non-Detroit residents to care or even comprehend the current political situation the city is in (for residents, this melodrama and infighting must be damn near insufferable). However, there was one student who expressed not only an interest in the election but rather an interesting viewpoint of the entire infrastructure.

“I do care very much, but I feel that the entire city government needs to be overhauled,” said Andrew McMillan, a Political Science and Economics Major. “Otherwise it’s the same people in charge and not much will change.” A curious statement to say the least, as this sentiment does call into question how much change Detroiters can expect no matter who is elected mayor.

Between protests that would feel at home on an episode of the People’s Court and an overemphasis on their coverage, it’s easy for voters to forget that beneath the drama is a real-life election that will determine who will be overseeing Detroit’s potential (re?)construction for the next few years. While many questions yet remain, such as how much interaction and cooperation can be expected between the new mayor, city council, and the Emergency Manager, it is clear that the situation in Detroit has reached a level of parody that is near-insulting. Detroit may be getting a new mayor, but what Detroit needs now more than ever is change.