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… and a carpetbagger shall lead them (again?)

Back on June 24, when I wrote Duggan’s departure: A carpetbagger screws up, it appeared that Mike Duggan, former Detroit Medical Center (DMC) CEO, and Wayne County prosecutor and deputy executive, was out of the race for mayor of Detroit.

Duggan, a carpetbagger who had moved from Livonia to Detroit last year to run for mayor, was kicked off the Aug. 6 primary ballot by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lita Popke for violating the Detroit City Charter by filing for mayor on April 2, less than a year after moving into the city. Duggan had moved on April 16, 2012 and could have filed for the race as late as May 14.

Popke’s ruling was upheld by a Michigan Court of Appeals panel by a 2-1 vote. Duggan appeared convinced that his candidacy was doomed by all of this attention to his carpetbagger status and decided not to appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, a move that disappointed his financial backers and media cheerleaders, most of whom live in the suburbs and aren’t as bothered by Duggan’s carpetbagging as he seemed to be. At the time, Duggan said he wouldn’t run a write-in campaign.

But money talks, and Duggan’s financial backers convinced him to re-enter the race on July 1 as a write-in candidate. Write-in campaigns are usually difficult challenges, but Duggan had a huge amount of money for the race. His campaign raised and spent $1.2 million, while his Super PAC, Turnaround Detroit, raised and spent $1.4 million. Major Turnaround Detroit donors included Roger Penske and his Penske Corp., $500,000; retired Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos, $200,000; DMC owner Vanguard Health, $100,000; Quicken Loans, owned by Dan Gilbert, $80,000; and developer A. Alfred Taubman, $25,000.

By contrast, Duggan’s major primary opponent, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, raised and spent $606,590 for his campaign, while his Super PAC, Detroit Forward, raised and spent $70,250. The remaining 13 candidates, ignored by the media, raised and spent very little money.

Duggan’s media cheerleaders gave him heavy and sympathetic coverage, portraying him as an underdog who was unfairly booted from the ballot, denying Detroit voters a chance to vote for him. Both the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News endorsed him. To add to the sympathy, labor activist Robert Davis unsuccessfully attempted to have Duggan declared ineligible as a write-in candidate because he failed to make the ballot.

Then came the write-in candidacy of Mike Dugeon, a 31-year-old barber who had never even voted before and whose last name is pronounced the same as Duggan’s. Clearly, Dugeon was recruited by another candidate to confuse voters and siphon votes from Duggan. Duggan’s campaign manager, Bryan Barnhill, alleged that the Napoleon campaign was behind Dugeon, which Napoleon denied. But Tom Barrow, another mayoral candidate whose lawsuit knocked Duggan off the ballot, was seen a few days after Dugeon’s entry into the race at his barbershop getting a haircut.

The Dugeon candidacy generated even more sympathy for Duggan, and his well-heeled campaign and Super PAC took full advantage, saturating Detroit with radio, TV and billboard ads, as well as instructing voters on how to correctly write in his name.

The result was a smashing victory for Duggan. With a 17 percent turnout, 50,328 voters, a 53 percent majority, voted for write-in candidates. Duggan received the lion’s share of the write-in vote, 44,395 (46 percent). This unofficial figure is certainly on the low side, because only ballots on which Duggan’s name was spelled correctly were counted for him. When the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meets this week to certify the primary results, misspelled write-in votes where the voter intended to vote for Duggan will also be counted, adding at least another 1,300 to his total.

Duggan will be joined on the Nov. 5 ballot by Napoleon, who came in second with 28,352 votes (30 percent). Second tier candidates eliminated in the primary were former Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon, 5,295 (6 percent); former state Rep. Lisa Howze, 4,581 (5 percent); Barrow, 3,690 (4 percent); state Rep. John Olumba, 1,327 (1 percent); and state Rep. Fred Durhal, 841 (1 percent). Candidates receiving less than one percent of the vote were retired 36th District Court Judge Willie Lipscomb, 303; Angelo Brown, 182; Herman Griffin, 165; Sigmunt Szczepkowski, 146; Mark Murphy, 142; Jean Vortkamp, 138; former Detroit Public Schools Superintendent John Telford, 110; and D'Artagnan Collier, 91. Dugeon received 17 write-in votes, with another 20 voters misspelling his name.

Based on his primary showing and enormous war chest, Duggan looks like a heavy favorite over Napoleon, whose best bet is that he can do better with a larger turnout. As a candidate, Napoleon, a former Detroit police chief, has so far been limited to his law enforcement background and attention to the crime issue, and the fact that he isn’t a carpetbagger.

While Duggan is a strong candidate, due to his political and administrative skills and experience, and track record for turning things around, we can’t say much for his backers. His major campaign donors previously bankrolled lame duck Mayor Dave Bing, an incompetent carpetbagger, in 2009, and corrupt former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2001 and 2005.

Meanwhile, his media cheerleaders don’t understand why Duggan is opposed to Detroit having an emergency manager. They can’t see the obvious: If elected mayor, Duggan wants to have the full powers of the office to implement his turnaround plan. He doesn’t want to have to play second fiddle to Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

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