Voters head to the polls for mayoral races

James David Dickson, Nicquel Terry, and Christine Ferretti

Detroit — Metro Detroit voters headed to the polls Tuesday facing contentious mayoral elections in Detroit but Dearborn, Pontiac and Royal Oak. They also will decide ballot issues in certain communities.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, left, and state Sen. Coleman Young II

Detroit voters will elect a mayor, city clerk and nine City Council members to represent the city for the next four years.

Elsewhere, voters will decide hotly contested mayor’s races in some of Metro Detroit’s largest suburbs.

In Dearborn, Mayor John O’Reilly and City Council President Pro Tem Tom Tafelski are locked in a contentious race focusing on city development issues.

Incumbent mayors in Dearborn Heights, Gibraltar, Grosse Pointe, Hamtramck and Westland also are vying to hold on to leadership roles. In Grosse Pointe Farms, two newcomers are battling for the top spot.

In Pontiac, Mayor Deidre Waterman is opposed by city councilman Mark Holland and two write-in candidates, Linda Kay Hasson and Alfred Patrick.

Suburban voters also will decide a variety of millage proposals to fund public safety, unfunded pensions, recreation, street upgrades and schools.

Voter turnout for Detroit’s general election is projected at 13 percent to 18 percent and includes races that have turned nasty in recent weeks with challengers attacking incumbents for legal issues and other mishaps.

State Sen. Coleman A. Young II is looking to unseat Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who won a write-in primary campaign in 2013 before prevailing over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, right, shakes hands with Rev. Charles Adams, left, head pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.

Duggan won the August primary with 68 percent of the vote to Young’s 27 percent. The first-term mayor has secured prominent endorsements from city labor unions, clergy and business groups, and raised about $2.2 million. Young has raised just under $39,000.

Young has run a low-budget, grassroots campaign that’s slammed Duggan on claims he has neglected the city’s neighborhoods. The senator also has focused on the city’s poverty and crime problems, water shutoffs and high car insurance rates.

On Monday night, Young appeared at his final rally before Election Day with an energized crowd that chanted “Whose city? Our city” and “black power” with fists in the air. The rally at Solomon’s Temple Banquet Hall celebrated Young’s “Take back the motherland” phrase that made headlines and drew criticism after a televised mayoral debate on Oct. 25.

Pianists, a violinist and singers entertained the crowd of roughly 130 people between speeches.

Voters in Detroit will choose between Coleman Young II, left, and Mike Duggan for mayor, along with City Council members and clerk.

Young’s campaign has countered claims that the “motherland” phrase created divisiveness between blacks and whites, saying it was meant to empower residents who feel neglected by the city’s leadership.

Young remained confident in his chances of winning the election, despite being down in the polls.

“Polls don’t vote, people do,” Young said at the rally. “And you gone see that on Election Day.”

Young told the crowd he was running to help Detroiters with water shut offs, dangerous streets and what he called auto insurance redlining.

Young said though he supports “black power,” he has compassion for residents of all races.

“We are taking this city back,” Young said. “We are taking back the motherland from oppression ... depression ... suppression.”

For his part, Duggan is touting improvements in city services during his term, including new streetlights, improved public safety response and more dependable bus lines. The mayor said he intends to continue work on unifying Detroit and has rolled out a series of efforts to fix up neighborhood corridors, roads and sidewalks.

The pair sparred Oct. 25 during their first and only debate over the city’s violent crime rate, neighborhoods and claims of corruption in the city’s federally funded demolition program.

Elsewhere, Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey is being challenged by computer engineer Garlin Gilchrist. Winfrey won the August primary with 51 percent of the vote, trailed by Gilchrist at 19 percent.

Incumbent clerks usually are favored to win, but Gilchrist has increased his competitiveness by raising more money than Winfrey between August and October. He collected $115,000 to Winfrey’s $13,500, according to campaign finance reports. That was in addition to the nearly $102,000 Gilchrist raised before the primary, when the incumbent logged in $12,000.

Winfrey has touted a renewed voting system with better training, after “human errors” in the 2016 general election prevented a recount at some Detroit precincts. Gilchrist called the election a “complete catastrophe” and says the clerk’s office needs a new leader.

Detroit voters also will elect two at-large council members and seven others by district.

Among the most contentious races include the battle to represent District 2 on the city’s west side.

The race pits former cop Roy McCalister against former state Sen. Virgil Smith, who resigned his legislative seat last year and served a 10-month jail sentence after firing an assault rifle at his ex-wife’s Mercedes-Benz in 2015.

Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr., who currently represents District 2, was the sole incumbent knocked out of the race in the August primary. He’s since mounted a write-in campaign in a bid to retain the seat.

Meanwhile, Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware is hoping to unseat District 5 Councilwoman Mary Sheffield.

Ware and Sheffield skipped the primary as the only two candidates vying to represent the district that covers a portion of Midtown, the city’s downtown and riverfront.

In other Detroit races:

■Incumbents Brenda Jones and Janee Ayers are being challenged by former state Rep. Mary Waters and county legislative assistant Beverly Kindle-Walker for Detroit’s two at-large council seats.

■Northwest Detroit’s incumbent Councilman James Tate is up against community activist Tamara Liberty Smith to represent District 1.

■District 3 Councilman Scott Benson is vying for re-election in northeast Detroit against a city Water Department retiree, Russ Bellant, who is president of two neighborhood groups.

■District 4 Councilman Andre Spivey is vying for a third term representing the city’s east side against Latisha Johnson, who heads a neighborhood nonprofit.

■Raquel Castaneda-Lopez is fighting to retain southwest Detroit’s District 6 seat against retired Wayne County sheriff Lt. Tyrone Carter.

■Detroit Public Schools Community District teacher Regina Ross is looking to unseat District 7 Councilman Gabe Leland.

Vote today

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.