Facing financial blight, is it time to go white?
Via Bloomberg reports:
Sean Davis said his friends called him a sell-out when he volunteered for Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan in February. After all, Davis is a black man from a city that’s 83 percent black, supporting a white candidate who until last year lived in the suburbs.
Davis didn’t listen. He said Duggan, who led Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon almost 2-1 in a poll last month, offers the best hope to change the trajectory of a bankrupt city where police don’t come, street lights don’t shine and neighborhoods are cut through by swaths of vacant homes and lots.
“I really wanted someone that was not part of the old regime,” Davis, 43, a former nightclub owner, said in an interview at Duggan’s campaign headquarters near downtown. “We definitely need a change.”
Duggan’s lead before the Nov. 5 election shows how smash-mouth racial politics may be giving way as voters look for a leader to assume power after the city emerges from a record $18 billion U.S. municipal bankruptcy and state control.
Recent history features the sentencing this month of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to 28 years in prison for racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, bribery and tax evasion. That’s the image of Detroit held by many residents outside the city, whose flight has created a generations-long divide with suburbanites who are whiter, richer and more Republican.
Duggan, 55, a former hospital executive and prosecutor, won more than half the vote as a write-in candidate in the Aug. 6 primary after he was kicked off the ballot in a residency dispute. A poll last month by the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV showed him leading Napoleon, 58, whom he outpolled by more than 20,000 votes in the primary.
Duggan said yesterday he was able to get past racial divisions by making a concerted effort to meet with people at house parties and other gatherings.
“When you sit down and talk to people face to face, your differences tend to melt away and what you have in common tends to bind you,” Duggan said in a telephone interview.
If Napoleon, a black candidate, had Duggan’s resume, the situation might have been different, said Joe T. Darden, a professor of urban geography at Michigan State University in East Lansing who has studied Detroit race relations.
“I don’t think it’s just that they want a white mayor,” Darden said in a telephone interview. “I just think they want a change.”
Can you really blame them? The city is in shambles and many folks blame “hip-hop mayor” Kwame Kilpatrick for worsening an already declining economic situation.
There has been some controversy with Duggan’s lead because the candidate wasn’t actually a Detroit resident until recently. His competition has been using that against him heavily in his campaign efforts.
Napoleon, who is supported by labor unions and church leaders, said he’s gaining momentum and that the election will be decided by voters who will trust a lifelong resident who knows the city firsthand.
“It’s not about race; it’s about residency,” Napoleon said in an interview at his campaign headquarters across the street from Duggan’s office. “I’m not focusing on the fact that Mike is white; I’m focusing on the fact that he ain’t right.”
“While he was sleeping in Livonia, I put on a bulletproof vest, a .40 caliber Glock and patrolled this city,” Napoleon said during an Oct. 20 televised debate.
We respect Napoleon’s experience in law enforcement but if the people of Detroit are looking to turn things around financially, does Duggan’s background make him a better fit?
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