All it took was the bankruptcy of the city and its effective loss of political power to make even the New Black Panthers rally around Duggan.
Detroit last elected a white mayor, Roman Gribbs, in 1969. The Detroit City Council has seated just two white members since 1990 and none since 2009.
So why is Duggan’s candidacy suddenly viable? In short: the city’s dismal financial state—with a reported debt of $14 billion, it now faces the prospect of bankruptcy and on Friday—has made Duggan’s business background a powerful selling point.
When he took over the DMC in 2004, it had lost $500 million in five years and was facing the closure of its two biggest hospitals. Duggan shifted resources to patient care and created a guarantee that ER patients would see a doctor within 29 minutes. He also spearheaded a program for small businesses that provided health care to 20,000 uninsured people. The DMC quickly began turning a profit.
Duggan, a Democrat, is running against Benny Napoleon, a black Democrat, who in theory should be the only one on the ballot. And Napoleon is campaigning in the predictable way,that Democrats in Detroit and other urban areas have been campaigning for decades but is falling behind.
Napoleon argues that Detroit’s problems are overstated, something he says has helped Duggan.
“When you convince people that they are desperate and their desperation is caused by somebody who looks like them, it starts people to thinking that ‘maybe we do need to do something different,’ ” Napoleon said. “And that is the refrain that is going out.”
Napoleon is suggesting that black voters are avoiding a black politician for racial reasons. That’s probably not the case. The issue may be that Napoleon sounds like every politician before him, pandering and offering up emotional promises, while avoiding details and reality.
Although he has a nearly 2-to-1 lead in the polls, Duggan has not won over Rep. Conyers, who endorsed Napoleon late last month. Conyers told voters that he supports the sheriff “because he is one of us.”
Napoleon has the backing of much of Detroit’s political establishment, but Duggan has the backing of the business community.
The election may not matter much considering Detroit’s current state. The city is being run by an emergency manager. Its current mayor is irrelevant and the city is being run by Kevin Orr, who is black, and is trying to deal with Detroit’s economic disaster. Pushing Duggan may be seen as a savvy move to put someone forward who can credibly be given control of the city again.
It’s ironic though that Detroit is set to vote for the competent man while New York City is set to vote for Bill de Blasio, an incompetent radical with no credentials except a black lesbian wife and a history of pandering to left-wing extremists. I don’t think Detroit will ever become New York, but at this point it seems like New York has learned nothing from Detroit.