Duggan seeks reelection in 2021 mayor's race

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan kicked off his bid for a third term Wednesday, unveiling plans to raise $50 million for "The People's Fund" to build a future in Detroit with more jobs and opportunity than the city has seen in generations.

Duggan addressed the public via livestream along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as Michigan continues to grapple with a surge of COVID-19 cases. The mayor noted rumors that he would possibly exit Detroit to join the administration of Democratic president-elect Joe Biden, saying he wanted to clear up the doubts.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "If you hire me for four more years, I will work every single day to continue to make sure every neighborhood has a future and every Detroit has a true opportunity to achieve your dreams."

The 62-year-old mayor pointed to efforts to battle the pandemic, bipartisan partnerships and backing from residents and groups across Detroit. He also said he's reached out to 100 major corporations and charities this week to secure millions to help Detroiters break down barriers.

"... whether it's structural racism, whether it's poverty, whether it's a bad school system, whether it's health challenges, whatever you've had that has been put in your way, the city of Detroit is going to find ways to step in and help you get over those barriers and make your dreams," Duggan said. 

Detroit's 75th Mayor Mike Duggan announces his 2021 re-election on virtual stream Wednesday, Dec. 9.

The reelection campaign opened with a 20-minute video with clergy, elected leaders, community groups, business owners and city residents voicing support for Duggan's continued leadership.

Whitmer touted Duggan's response to the COVID-19 crisis and said he has shown that "he has the public health of Detroiters at the forefront of his mind."

"The mayor has proven himself uniquely qualified when it comes to leading Detroit through hardship," the first-term Democrat said. "And through it all has shown a deep sense of compassion, every step of the way."

Duggan's announcement came one day after Detroit said it will continue a moratorium on residential water shutoffs through 2022 and begin working on a plan that would end them permanently. 

In 2014, the city garnered national attention and a call from United Nations experts to end a controversial crackdown on delinquencies that led to numerous service shutoffs amid the city's financial crisis. 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the city’s former health office director who joined the mayor Tuesday to announce the city’s continued ban on water shutoffs, said Duggan is "the leader Detroit needs right now."

"Mayor Duggan and I haven’t always agreed. We have clear disagreements on the way we approach our politics,” El-Sayed said. “But Mayor Duggan, from the day we began working together, proved to me that public health is one of his primary concerns.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan discusses the region's rising rate of COVID-19 infection at a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.

Marvis Cofield, the founder and CEO of Alkebu-lan Village, an organization that provides tutoring, martial arts and African dance for city youth, said the mayor "sits down with us."

“Mayor Duggan gives you a chance to be at the table," he said. "We need each other. he understands the need to rebuilt our neighborhood. We are in this together."

Last month, the mayor celebrated the Nov. 3 passage of a $250 million blight bond to tear down and renovate thousands of blighted homes by a margin of more than 70%.

The measure was controversial in the wake of a federally-funded demolition program that took down 15,000 homes but was marked with investigations and reviews over bidding practices and soaring costs. 

But Duggan's administration also suffered a setback when it failed to gain Detroit City Council support for a broad proposal aimed at giving residents who may have been overtaxed before 2014 priority in affordable housing, home-buying discounts and job opportunities. 

The plan was designed to offset losses for homeowners from 2010 to 2013 as a step toward addressing an estimated overtaxing of $600 million for Detroiters over a six-year period through 2016. 

Council in November narrowly rejected the plan, which was opposed by some of its members and tax justice groups who argued it didn't provide meaningful relief. 

Detroit was hard-hit early on by the virus, which as of Wednesday has accounted for 1,633 deaths and 22,505 confirmed cases in the city overall. 

Under Duggan, the city was among the first in the country to acquire 15-minute rapid testing kits and set up a drive-up testing site, at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds. The site since been relocated to a city recreation center. 

Detroit political consultant Mario Morrow said Duggan’s name recognition, funding support and leadership, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, is strong, and challengers face an uphill climb. 

“It’s not what you know. It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you,” Morrow said. “If you don’t have high name recognition and the successful track record to overcome a very well-known, respected, powerful incumbent like Mike Duggan, you might as well pack your bags and call it quits before you get started.”

Other prominent names weighing a potential run for Detroit mayor are term-limited state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and former Detroit deputy mayor and school board president Anthony Adams. 

Detroit school board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is considering a run for mayor.

Gay-Dagnogo, who recently won a seat on the city's school board, shared her intentions in January to form a committee to explore a bid for Detroit's top office. 

On Wednesday, Gay-Dagnogo said she's undecided but remains receptive to the will of the people who believe the city needs new leadership. 

"It has to be a united front, fighting for our collective voices," said Gay-Dagnogo, a Democrat representing Michigan's 8th District in northwest Detroit. "If the people are ready, they'll show up. They'll reach out and get involved. It can't just be me. It has to be us."

Adams said Wednesday, "I haven't made up my mind yet" but "a lot of people approached me about running for mayor."

"I'm definitely considering it," said Adams, who noted he's been attending virtual community meetings to hear from residents and neighborhood organizations. "Listening to the plight of people who feel as though they are not connected to the city, that it's not really working for everybody."

Anthony Adams, the former Detroit deputy mayor during Kwame Kilpatrick's administration, left, and Dr. David Lewis, right.

In his initial campaign in 2013, Duggan was kicked off the primary ballot after it was ruled he hadn’t lived in Detroit for more than one year when he turned in his petitions.

He ran as a write-in candidate, receiving 45% of the primary vote. In the general election, he defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, garnering 55%.

In 2017, Duggan sailed to victory over former state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, pulling in more than 70% of the vote. 

The mayor touted major service improvements in his first term, including the installation of 65,000 new LED street lights, improved police and EMS response times, and new city buses.