DETROIT — Former hospital chief, prosecutor and political pitbull Mike Duggan, who campaigned as the candidate most capable of leading Detroit back from the brink, has defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in Tuesday’s election for Detroit mayor, the Detroit Free Press projects.
With 67 percent of precincts reporting, the raw vote count showed Duggan leading 55 percent to 45 percent.
Detroit political analyst Steve Hood said Duggan’s message of his turnaround skills, including rescuing the Detroit Medical Center from near-bankruptcy a decade ago, caught on in a city that’s facing a financial disaster of its own, fighting for survival in bankruptcy court, with residents exasperated by high taxes, poor public services, blight, unemployment and crime.
“His message of change resonated across racial lines, much the same as President Barack Obama did,” Hood said.
He cautioned that, while voters in Detroit, which is 82 percent black, were willing to elect the city’s first white mayor in nearly 40 years, racial polarization remains.
Tuesday’s win “means he connected with African-Americans in a huge way, but he’s got to go from message to reality,” Hood said. Duggan also will have to “figure out how to deal with Kevyn Orr, because if he’s not careful, he, too, could get a gas allowance and a corner office,” a reference to how Mayor Dave Bing was largely shunted aside after Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Orr the city’s emergency manager.
One of Duggan’s top jobs, politically, will be to mend fences with union leaders and influential clergy who backed Napoleon, Hood said.
Earlier Tuesday evening, Napoleon’s supporters gathered Tuesday night at the Roostertail, the riverfront restaurant and event center. Duggan and his contingent partied at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center, where the mood in the Renaissance Ballroom was festive.
Hundreds of Duggan supporters gathered awaiting election results. Aides said Duggan was preparing remarks at the hotel but wasn’t expected to appear publicly before the final results were in.
A jazz band played at the ballroom before the entertainment switched to videos showing Duggan on the campaign trail, and a DJ played music.