It’s 2013 and that means it’s game time for anyone suiting up for a season of Detroit politics. The upcoming months will be bursting with campaign quips, candidate smack talk and, as Mike Duggan throws his hat into the ring as the city’s first viable white mayoral candidate in decades, perhaps a bit more racial tension.
Former Detroit Medical Center (DMC) CEO Mike Duggan marked his last day on the job with a letter explaining why he wants to take charge of a city teetering on the edge of bankruptcy—not to mention neck-deep in a myriad of other big hairy problems—in a newsletter to DMC employees.
In the letter, written on new year’s eve, Duggan vows to start campaigning full-time starting Wednesday and also to “see people’s souls first” before the color of their skin.
“I’ve listened to people tell me I can’t get elected because I’m white,” Duggan wrote in the letter. “ I’ve listened to those same people say if I do get elected, it won’t matter, because most Michiganders won’t ever support Detroit’s recovery because most of our citizens are black. It can get really demoralizing if you believe that stuff.”
The new year is only in its second day, but the political smack talk has already started. In the newsletter Duggan took a swipe at State Rep. Fred Durhal, who announced his candidacy for mayor in November.
“We have a City a half-step from bankruptcy and the only other candidate with a realistic chance of getting elected has never successfully financially managed anything,” Duggan said of Durhal. “He admits this, but promises to “hire someone smart” to figure out the finances if he gets elected.
Can you imagine at my hiring in 2004 when DMC was near bankruptcy, if I had said my turnaround plan was to “hire someone” to help me understand the finances? I hate to think where DMC would be today.”
Duggan said he could not “sit by and watch” Detroit decline any longer and that, is why he plans to campaign for a job that current mayor Dave Bing calls “the second hardest job in the nation.”
Duggan, much like Bing, is a man who has run businesses in Detroit and moved into the city from the suburbs in order to be eligible to run for mayor. Unlike Bing, Duggan has a track record of success in turnaround giving him perhaps an edge in the race.
Still, Duggan’s toughest opponent may not be incumbent Bing. Bing has not indicated whether he plans to run for a second term and even if he did, Bing’s popularity is reportedly shaky as a recall petition is circulating to remove him from office. In fact, local pundits predict the race will mainly be fought between Duggan and prospective candidate Wayne County Sherriff Benny Napoleon.
While Napoleon has not announced a 2013 mayoral run, Signs point to this being the case as he ups is social media presence and recently had some fightin’ words aimed at Duggan.
“It’s our Detroit, and we’re going to keep it for Detroiters,” Napoleon said from the pulpit of New Bethel Baptist Church the Detroit News reports.
“He (Duggan) cannot say he has the common experiences that Detroiters have,” Napoleon told The News.
While Napoleon is busily pinning Duggan as an out-of-touch outsider, Duggan is doing a little soul searching to try and get the race issue out of the way.
“The great majority of DMC employees see people’s souls first, and see the color of their skin second, I see it every day in our employees as you interact with each other and as you interact with our patients,” Duggan wrote to DMC employees in his new year’s eve letter. “ I can’t help thinking: what if Detroiters and our fellow Michiganders came to see each other as souls first?”