U.S. Congressman John Conyers Jr., left, shakes hands with candidate Benny Napolean, right, upon the Congressman's endorsement. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
Detroit — U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. officially endorsed Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon Thursday as “one of our own.”
The longtime Detroit Democratic congressman’s comment was an implicit dig at mayoral candidate Mike Duggan, the former Detroit Medical Center CEO and longtime Livonia resident who moved in early 2012 to a home in the Palmer Woods neighborhood of Detroit.
“What we’re doing now is letting everybody know the main popular support is behind Benny Napoleon for the mayor of the city of Detroit — not because he’s wealthy or politically powerful, but because he’s one of us,” said Conyers, the second-longest-serving congressman behind Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn.
Conyers, who unsuccessfully ran for Detroit mayor in 1989 and 1993, has been a vocal opponent of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and the state’s emergency manager law. The Government Accountability Office is studying Michigan’s emergency manager laws going back to 1988 at the request of Conyers and Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.
Napoleon said he was grateful for Conyers’ endorsement, calling him a “living legend.”
“He has been supporting and representing this community in Washington for nearly 50 years,” Napoleon said from inside his campaign headquarters on East Jefferson.
Nothing could be more humbling than to have Conyers’ support, he said.
In another development Thursday, Duggan issued a statement urging Gov. Rick Snyder and Orr to postpone the health care benefit changes until city employees “have true input into a long-term solution that both reduces costs to the city and provides retirees access to affordable health care.”
City retirees and current employees are expected to have their health care plans cut starting Jan. 1, Orr said last week. For active employees, deductibles could nearly quadruple.
Napoleon has also spoken out against cutting pension and health benefits for city employees.
Duggan said it’s critical that changes not be made at the expense of retirees and active workers.
“We need to make changes to reduce the unfunded costs of providing health care to retirees, but those changes should be made only after meaningful discussions with the affected groups,” Duggan said in a statement released to the Detroit firefighters union.
He added that “the UAW successfully restructured health care costs in the auto industry with Ford, GM, and Chrysler by acting in partnership, and I believe a solution through partnership is equally possible in the City of Detroit.”
In Thursday filings, union activist Robert Davis is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene in two matters involving Duggan’s candidacy. The first case asks to throw out votes cast for Duggan because the Nov. 5 ballots were illegally printed and did not have the proper numbering or size. Davis also says absentee ballots should be thrown out because they were not properly approved by the city’s election commission.
A Wayne County Circuit Court ruled against Davis, but he appealed the ruling. It was on hold until a federal bankruptcy judge's ruling last week.
In the other request, Davis is challenging whether Duggan should be a candidate because he did not file new nominating petitions during his write-in campaign in the primary.
Davis would like the matter to be heard as early as Friday or Monday. It is unclear whether the court has decided to take up the cases.
Staff Writer Darren A. Nichols contributed