The race for Wayne County Executive is wide open. The top five candidates, including incumbent Robert Ficano, Westland Mayor Bill Wild, State Representative Phil Cavanagh, former Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans and Wayne County Commissioner Kevin McNamara, have all received the backing of institutions and leaders who otherwise in typical elections would have been supporting the same candidate.
For example, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, to the surprise of many, came out in support of Evans despite expectations that the mayor would stay out of the race because of his relationship with the other candidates, especially McNamara whose father, Edward McNamara, is largely responsible for Duggan’s political career. The mayor was the top executive to McNamara who was Wayne County Executive. Evans, the only African American in the race, also worked under Duggan when he was county prosecutor. He supported Duggan’s historic campaign for mayor of Detroit.
At the same time, the Detroit Regional Chamber, a group of business leaders headed by Sandy Baruah, came out in support of Wild, the mayor of Westland. The chamber supported the Duggan campaign for mayor and it was expected that the mayor would go with the choice of the business group. But that didn’t happen even as Wild has proven to be the most effective fundraiser of the campaign. His links to CEOs, including Bill Ford Jr. the chairman of Ford Motor Company, has made many political observers wary about ruling him out of the race.
Meanwhile, Ficano, the current county executive whose administration has been under federal investigations for public corruption (he has not been charged in any of the investigations), seeing some of his top officials head to prison, received the endorsement of the much sought after Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee founded by Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, the largest chapter of the civil rights organization in the country. Heaster Wheeler, former executive director of the Detroit NAACP, currently works as an Assistant Wayne County CEO.
In addition to receiving the support of Anthony’s group, Ficano also received the ensorsement of the Michigan/Ontario Council of Bishops of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), an organization that sits as the largest Black Christian denomination in the country.
Cavanagh, who has been branded the underdog in the county race, to the surprise of many received the endorsement of AFSCME-Local 25, the largest union in Detroit headed by labor stalwart Al Garrett. Around the time he received the endorsement of AFSCME, Cavanagh also received the support of metro Detroit AFL-CIO, another influential union group.
McNamara, on the other hand, received the endorsement of one of the most recognizable Democrats in the country and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Like Duggan, Granholm was a product of the McNamara machine which for a long time controlled Democratic politics in Wayne County and across the state.
Candidate McNamara’s father, Ed McNamara was known as the “kingmaker,” and helped to launch Granholm’s meteoric rise in politics that started in Wayne County, then becoming Michigan Attorney General and then as governor.
“We believe that Robert Ficano, who has served this county for 20 years as its sheriff, 12 years as the Wayne County Executive, a leader in the Cobo Hall expansion which is bringing new money and new conventions to our city, is a leader in regional cooperation not in regional subjugation. He has led the way to reduce budget costs starting with his own staff and is moving in a new direction to construct a new jail for this county, which by the way the decision to cease the current construction of was made by his administration, deserves our support,” Rev. Anthony said in his support of Ficano.
“When I think in terms of Wayne County, the number one thing we need is emphasis on law enforcement. And it’s critical that we get a Wayne County Executive who has experience to run a large organization and knows that the most pressing priority is we’re going to deliver law enforcement services,” Duggan said of his backing of Evans.
“Mayor Wild took over a fiscally troubled city and balanced seven consecutive budgets while creating a rainy day fund with $5 million,” the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee said in its endorsement of Wild.