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Napoleon considered as running mate for Whitmer

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon says he is being considered as a running mate for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer.

Napoleon said he was among several Democrats recommended to serve as the lieutenant governor nominee should Whitmer win the Aug. 7 primary election. She faces Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar, former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed, former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs and lesser-known opponents.

Napoleon, a former Detroit police chief who unsuccessfully ran for Detroit mayor in 2013, stopped short of saying whether he would accept the offer from Whitmer’s campaign.

“I think it’s too early to talk about it,” Napoleon told The Detroit News. “I would certainly consider it if they extended the offer. But that has not happened yet.”

“The campaign is looking at some great options for running mate, but no decisions have been made,” said campaign spokeswoman Annie Ellison.

Whitmer said at a Wednesday campaign event where she received the endorsement of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan that she is still mulling her running mate options.

“That process is just beginning, I haven’t made a decision yet,” Whitmer said. “But we will have a process and an announcement probably in the next few months.”

She declined to say whether she was specifically considering any Detroiters or a running mate who worked in law enforcement.

Napoleon endorsed Whitmer in October, saying he planned to join her on the campaign trail. He was joined by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in the endorsement.

Some Democrats have suggested the need for a high-profile black Democrat from Detroit to run with Whitmer to help bolster her support in the city.

Then-Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero had then-Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence as his lieutenant governor nominee, and they lost in a landslide to Republican Rick Snyder in 2010. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Battle Creek had Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown has his running mate, and they lost by four percentage points to Gov. Snyder.

Detroit is considered a critical area for statewide Democratic candidates to generate more voter participation.

The failure of enough Detroiters to show up at the polls in November 1990 helped Republican John Engler edge incumbent Democratic Gov. James Blanchard. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton also saw a fall-off in Detroit voters compared with then-President Barack Obama that contributed to Republican Donald Trump’s 10,704-vote win in Michigan.

Joanne Barnes, 63, of Auburn Hills, said Napoleon would be “perfect” as Whitmer’s running mate.

“He’s a lifelong Detroit supporter, and he has seen the ups and downs of Detroit, and he knows what we need here in Detroit and around Michigan,” said Barnes, who grew up in Detroit and attended a Wednesday event where Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan endorsed Whitmer. “He’s got the contacts, and I think he would do a great job.”

At her Duggan endorsement event, Whitmer promoted the need to help the city, saying Duggan needs a partner in Lansing and that “Michigan cannot be successful unless Detroit is successful.”

“I am in Detroit’s corner,” she added.

Detroit has experienced a comeback since emerging from bankruptcy protection at the end of 2014. Snyder has played up the revival of the city’s downtown and the emergence of new businesses during his second term.