Believe it or not, Detroit still has a mayor’s race to run — but nobody’s even thinking about the race of the top contenders. Not openly anyway.
The duties don’t seem very onerous – in fact, it’s tough to tell if there are any for an office stripped of its power in a city that’s already in bankruptcy.
And the salary is pretty good – about $155,000 a year, as long as the city’s emergency manager keeps paying it.
According to The New York Times, 16 candidates will be going into a non-partisan primary on Tuesday, with the two top vote-getters facing off in the general election in November.
So far, according to The Times, the two main contenders are Benny Napoleon, a former Detroit police chief and former sheriff of Wayne County (Detroit’s home), and Mike Duggan, a former chief executive of the Detroit Medical Center. They are expected to be the two to survive Tuesday’s whittling.
Duggan has been endorsed by the Detroit Free Press, he’s a favorite of the business community, according to The Times, and has a 2-1 fundraising lead over Napoleon. On the downside, he’s forced to run a write-in campaign after two election boards ruled that the Detroit native who’d moved back to the city to run for office hadn’t been a legal resident long enough to be on the ballot.
Napoleon talks up his neighborhood roots, about how he grew up in the city, and how he’s owned his home there since 1985.
Oh, yes. Duggan is white. Napoleon is black.
And, according to The Times, “Underlying the potential matchup are questions about whether a city that is more than 80 percent African-American could elect its first white mayor since Coleman Young took office in 1974. This at a time when (Gov. Rick) Snyder, a white governor in Lansing, is viewed by some Detroiters as an outsider who stripped power from the city’s black leaders by appointing the emergency manager.”
The Times hastens to add, “Candidates say race is not a factor in the election.”
It’s such a non-factor that The Times just spent a paragraph giving us the racial demographics of the city, a brief racial history of its mayors for the past 40 years, the race of Michigan’s governor, and the race of the city’s other black leadership.
But maybe The Times is right.
In addition to being black, Napoleon is also the preferred candidate of the United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO.
With that kind of union backing, and given everything the unions have done for Detroit, Napoleon doesn’t have to be black to win.
In fact, no one’s even noticed.
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