Debate gives Young only forum to confront Duggan

The Detroit News

Detroit — State Sen. Coleman Young II will be looking to cut into Mayor Mike Duggan’s re-election chances at a Wednesday night debate, which marks the only time the two candidates will face off before the Nov. 7 election.

Young has complained about the lack of debates. In 2013, Duggan faced off against Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon three times.

Duggan won the August primary 68 percent to 27 percent and has raised nearly 73 times more money than Young through late July, $1.6 million to $22,000, with updated campaign finance reports due later this week.

The hour-long debate will be broadcast live on WDIV-TV (Channel 4) beginning at 8 p.m. It is co-hosted by The Detroit News, WDIV-TV and WTVS-TV (Channel 56) and will be live-streamed on The News’ website.

The candidates on Wednesday are expected to tackle issues ranging from crime to neighborhoods, auto insurance and transit.

Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley will host an online post-debate show at that will analyze what the candidates said and what impact it may have on the campaign.

A political action committee supporting Young last week put out a racially charged campaign attack ad likening Duggan to disgraced former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — a contention the Duggan administration said is “totally false.”

The 30-second spot, funded by the Save Our City Super Political Action Committee, alludes to an ongoing federal investigation into the city’s federally funded demolition program. No charges have been filed against any individuals, but the probe has focused on concerns over rising Detroit demolition costs and bidding in fall 2015.

Duggan has touted service improvements during his tenure, including new streetlights, better police and emergency response times, and rejuvenated city parks.

The first-term mayor has said the city is “heading in the right direction” and “we’ve just got a lot of work to do.”

A pro-Duggan group, the Turn Around Detroit Political Action Committee, in early October aired a 30-second ad called “Heartbeat” in which the narrator said, “Streetlights are working again. Trash is being picked up again. A miracle? No, hard work by all of us.”

Young has criticized Duggan for neglecting city neighborhoods and failing to address violent crime.

Concerns over poverty and water shutoffs also top Young’s list, as well as the need for lower auto insurance rates and more job training opportunities.

“Coleman Young cares about what folks are going through in this city,” Young’s campaign manager Adolph Mongo said Tuesday. “He rode the buses, he’s walking the streets. People know what Coleman Young is about.”

For Duggan’s part, the mayor will “talk about what we have accomplished as a city and the work that lies ahead,” said Sharon Banks, a spokeswoman for the Duggan for Detroit Committee.

But city statistics have shown a decline in homicides. Duggan has agreed that crime remains a challenge, but noted some efforts that have improved conditions, including Detroit’s neighborhood police officers and Project Green Light, a program that allows officers to monitor businesses’ high-definition video feeds in real time.

The mayor remains confident in the plan he’s pushing in the state Legislature for auto insurance reform and recently has rolled out more projects to spruce up neighborhood commercial corridors, roads and sidewalks.