Duggan wins third term as Detroit's mayor by wide margin

Sarah Rahal Hayley Harding
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan was re-elected to a third term Tuesday evening in Michigan's most populous city, easily beating back a challenge from a former deputy mayor under Kwame Kilpatrick. 

Duggan got more than 75% of the vote to Anthony Adams' 24% with 100% of precincts reporting. He thanked his supporters who stood by him, even though he didn't campaign in traditional style.

Duggan is set to become the second longest-serving mayor in the city's history, following Coleman A. Young, who served as the city's first African American mayor for 20 years. The mayor did little to no campaigning ahead of Tuesday's election and told The Detroit News Monday, "People want to see me working."

After declaring his victory, Duggan promised to help those stuck in intergenerational poverty.

“We’re going to help you get on track to stabilizing your family and then giving you a chance to get one of those jobs so you never have to worry,” he said. “This is the vision that we have. That the recovery reaches every neighborhood through every family, and I am going to work at it every single day.”

The mayor promised to remove or rehab every blighted home in the city and make more park upgrades.

“In the next two years, you are going to see two spectacular park upgrades to Riverside Park which is going to be built out," Duggan said in a speech after 10 p.m. "Southwest Detroit will finally have a first-class park along the water as downtown and east side have had for a while. Second, the Ralph Wilson Park, which will be built by the post office, will be something extraordinary.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, with wife Sonia Hassan, speaks Tuesday night after being re-elected at his Election Night party at N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Midtown.

“Detroit is going to make national headlines for the beauty that we are adding."

Removing longtime eyesores is essential, he said. The longtime train station that has been vacant since 1980 will become the base of 5,000 Ford Motor employees. General Motors will also be adding 2,000 jobs to a plant they thought about closing 18 months ago, he said.

Duggan touted planned redevelopments for the Cadillac Staple Plant on Conner, which will be built into a factory with 500 jobs making seats for Lear, and working on redeveloping the AMC headquarter on Plymouth.

For the first time in 50 years, Duggan said, “We are going to get rid of that Packard Plant and redevelop that property,” to which the crowd cheered.

The mayor also vowed to work closely with the incoming City Council, which will have four new members.

“We’re going to have a number of new members on city council … and as the numbers come in, I will be congratulating and sitting down with each of them to hear their vision for the city,” Duggan said.

Adams doesn't concede

But at 9:50 p.m., Adams vowed he wouldn't concede until all the votes were counted.

By 10:30 p.m., he said, "This is not the last you're going to hear from Anthony Adams."

Adams said he would sit down with his wife Wednesday and analyze the election results.

"We'll be prepared to say some things in the future," he said. 

Detroit mayoral challenger Anthony Adams got emotional Tuesday night when he talked about helping children and young people in Detroit during a Detroit News interview.

In his bid for another four-year term, Duggan touted a continued focus on building "One Detroit for Everyone." It included affordable housing, revival of long-neglected neighborhoods and ensuring every Detroiter — through programs like Detroit at Work — has access to jobs and job training. 

As part of his "People's Plan," Duggan pledged to raise $50 million over five years to help fund a series of programs for Detroiters who have felt "left behind or left out."

The mayor pledged to get more Detroiters into jobs, adding that education and skill training will be high priorities. More than 1,000 criminal records have been wiped off the books through Project Clean Slate, he said, and “we’re going to move thousands more because we need the talents." ” he said.

Duggan arrived at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Midtown shortly before 9 p.m. with his wife, shaking hands of 50 supporters lined up to greet him inside.

The mayor wore a blue suit and black mask. He posed for photos and encouraged attendees to stay safe by sanitizing and masking up.

Earlier Tuesday night, Adams said he was feeling optimistic about his chances of winning as he temporarily took over as the disk jockey at his Election Night party at his northwest side campaign headquarters. But he said he hadn't considered what he would do if he lost.

Adams targeted younger voters and people in the city who are "being left behind" in his uphill campaign to unseat the incumbent.

The Kilpatrick-era deputy mayor contended repeated rounds of devastating summer flooding, the city's crime rate and Duggan's stalled progress in addressing $600 million in past property over-assessments are potent issues for him.

He also prayed by his supporters at the gathering. 

"If I don't win, my fear is that all of this will be for naught," Adams said.

The challenger cried as he talked about what an emotional journey it has been to connect with people, but said he wouldn't trade it for the world because "people need help in this community."

Duggan, 63, sailed to a primary victory in August, getting 72% of the vote to Adams' 10%. But Adams, 65, built his platform around what he calls Duggan's "benign neglect" of Detroit.

On Tuesday morning, both Duggan and Adams posed for photos with poll workers at their precincts and talked with the media as they appeared within an hour of each other, both voting with their wives.

"This has been an incredible journey, talking to the people of Detroit and really understanding their issues and concerns," Adams said at Carstens Academy on Essex, who was joiined by wife Lynn Marine-Adams. "We put up a great fight and we're looking forward to a great victory tonight. The momentum is clearly on our side."

Duggan and wife Dr. Sonia Hassan made their appearance at River House Co-op on East Jefferson to vote shortly before 9 a.m.

He said he voted yes on reparations ballot measure to form a committee to pursue the idea: "I think it's a good idea. It engages us in the national conversation, and I think it puts Detroit in a good position."

Voters weigh in

Voters weighed in on the election at Greater Grace Temple on Tuesday evening.

Fernando Willis, 27, said he definitely voted for Adams and said the most important issue to him was to "make sure Black people have access to mental health services."

Why Adams? Willis said, "He was showing up; he was willing to debate and he was not trying to run away. I feel like he’s with the people."

But Wanda Harvey, 55, voted for Duggan because, "I like what he’s doing with the city, and there have been great improvements."

Taneshe Vernon, a city teacher, didn't want to disclose her vote, but said the next mayor should concentrate on improving the city's 200 neighborhoods and safety.

“Downtown looks great; Midtown looks great, but what about our neighborhoods?" said Vernon, 39. "I’m a teacher and I would like kids to be able to walk to school without worrying. Safety is the big thing in Detroit. I know we have problems I just don’t know what solutions there are."

Vernon has owned her home near Telegraph and Six Mile for 12 years and said watching people leave her neighborhood is a shame.

"But then you go downtown and everything‘s great," she said. "I don’t want to take away from downtown because you need a great downtown, but you also need good neighborhoods too. If the cities going to survive, you need both.”

Denise Lomax, a voter from the city's northwest side, said she was undecided on her vote for mayor before reaching the polls.

"I have a problem with people delivering on their commitment. Of the funding the city's gotten, how much has gone into this broken area?" said Lomax, who lives in the Cadillac Community. "We've lost five kids from this community to violence, they closed the library and the kids got nowhere to go but abandoned houses."

Duggan refused to debate Adams during the general election campaign, with campaign manager Alexis Wiley citing Adams' inflammatory remarks on Twitter, noting Duggan won't engage the "hateful and divisive rhetoric." Adams told The News he agrees that his campaign is based on hate speech because "I hate what (Duggan) is doing to Detroit."

Duggan engaged in a single debate four years ago with Coleman A. Young II, the son of the city's first Black mayor and Duggan's 2017 challenger. He took part in three during his first run when he faced off with the late Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

Durrel Douglas, a 35-year-old resident of District 5, said Tuesday that Duggan got his vote. Douglas, a community organizer, moved last year from Houston to Detroit.

“I’m a pretty new Detroiter…” he said. “I started paying more attention to what’s going on at city hall, paying attention to some of the improvements that have been happening. I would like to see them spread out more. There’s a whole lot that needs to be done. (Duggan) has a record that he can point to.”

But Adams said he feared Duggan's victory could come back to haunt Democrats in the 2022 midterms in Michigan. Detroit is traditionally considered a key to Democratic success for statewide offices. 

The low turnout "is very disturbing to me, because it's really a form of voter suppression in order for the corporate elite to maintain control in our city," Adams maintained. Clerk Janice Winfrey projected about 15-20% of the city's registered voters would participate, down from 21% in 2017.

The voter apathy is a problem "because you can't turn the switch on and off when you're talking about a democratic process," Adams said, adding that "They are going to really have a problem on next year."



Staff Writers George Hunter and Candice Williams contributed.