Former hospital executive Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napolean emerged from a crowded field of Detroit mayoral hopefuls on Tuesday and are set to face off to become the next mayor of a city which recently filed for bankruptcy.
Duggan's write-in campaign -- he was kicked off the ballot over a residency issue -- earned 46 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting while Napolean took 30 percent of the vote.
Duggan and Napolean began looking ahead to the next leg of the race late Tuesday evening, as unofficial results suggested they were poised to face off in the general election.
Both Democrats, they headed into Tuesday as the two leading candidates in the nonpartisan primary election featuring 14 candidates on ballot. A well-funded favorite of the business community, Duggan would be the first white mayor of Detroit since the 1970s. More than 80 percent of the city’s residents are black.
Duggan was struck from the ballot over a residency issue, forcing the write-in campaign. A second write-in candidate named Mike Dugeon added even more uncertainty to the race.
Duggan released a campaign jingle to remind voters how to spell his name so as to distinguish himself from Dugeon, a barber and political newcomer. Duggan has suggested that Napoleon’s campaign orchestrated Dugeon’s run.
A county board will review the write-in ballots.
Duggan expressed optimism late Tuesday that he received a vast majority of write-in votes, as he looked ahead to the next phase of the race.
“All of us are sharing a dream to rebuild this city together,” an upbeat Duggan told supporters.
Napoleon reminded his backers that the campaign is far from over. “This is halftime, folks,” he said.
The general election is set for Nov. 5. Mayor Dave Bing, a former Detroit Pistons basketball star, announced in May that he would not run for reelection, leaving the race open.
Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country’s history last month, the latest sign of economic decline for a city that was bustling in the middle of the 20th century but has been plagued by crime and population loss in recent decades.
The next mayor is expected to have little power, given Detroit’s plight. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) installed bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr as the city’s emergency manager, investing in him the power to lead a city in flux.
“The question is not how much power [the next mayor] is going to have. I can answer that quickly — virtually none,” said Bill Ballenger, the editor of Inside Michigan Politics. “The question is how long that is going to go on.”
Turnout appeared to be low on Tuesday, with elections officials estimating that only about 17 percent of voters had cast ballots.
Aaron Blake contributed to this report.