Duggan wins Detroit mayoral primary; Adams to be fall opponent

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Correction: Alexis Wiley is Mayor Mike Duggan's former chief of staff and is managing his campaign. 

Detroit — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan sailed to a Tuesday primary election victory, and will face Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams in the general election. 

Duggan had 72% of the vote with all precincts reporting followed by Adamsat 10%. Perennial candidate Tom Barrow was third with 6% and second-time candidate Myya Jones was fourth with 5%. 

Duggan's former chief of staff Alexis Wiley called the more than 60 percentage point gap a historic margin of victory. The turnout was listed Tuesday night as 11%, below the 14% rate in the August 2017 primary.

Mayor Mike Duggan prepares to insert his ballot in
the vote tabulator machine after voting at River House Apartments.

Duggan held a Tuesday night party on the patio of Good Vibes on the city’s east side. The 63-year-old incumbent posed for photos with supporters and chatted beside a bonfire with his fiancé Sonia Hassan and Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallet Jr. He was greeted by a round of applause by nearly 130 people.

The crowd chanted “Four more years!” as Duggan took the microphone to thank the supporters who knocked doors, made phone calls and worked the strategy. 

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs but never wavered and I’m just deeply appreciative,” Duggan said, also thanking his fiancé, mother Joan, and son Ed who ran the Vote No on Proposal P campaign. 

“There’s no doubt Proposal P would have put this city in a financial crisis, no matter who was the mayor,” Duggan said, also thanking the Rev. Horace Sheffield, who filed suit against the proposal in court.

“Starting tomorrow, we’re going to be back to knocking every door in every neighborhood in the city because we got a long way to go," the mayor said.

The first thing on the mayor’s agenda is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives to host a Wednesday briefing on how people in the city can maximize their reimbursement, “because we got to deal with the flood issues to deal with them now. We’re gonna come up with permanent solutions, and we're just going to keep right on going.”

Mayor Mike Duggan at the Election Night Watch Party at the Good Vibes Lounge in Detroit, Michigan on August 3, 2021.

Stacy Terrell, 50, said she voted to uphold the Duggan administration “because I’m very pleased with Duggan and what he has done thus far.”

She wasn’t alone. A handful of other voters also said they supported Duggan.

But others said they believed in Adams, who served in the administration of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and was an executive assistant to ex-Mayor Coleman Young. Kilpatrick was convicted on federal corruption charges and served seven years in prison before former President Donald Trump commuted Kilpatrick's sentence

“Right now, Adams seems like the best choice because it’s just time for change and he’s the one who has nearly been in the position before,” said Nigel Hartford, 46. 

Duggan has been touting his creation of the Department of Neighborhoods, overseeing  service improvements and prioritizing blight elimination, affordable housing and access to jobs training through programs like Detroit at Work. 

He has credited his administration's programs like the "People Plan" and Detroit Community Health Corps. for a drop in the city's poverty rate from 40% to 30% in the last five years, prior to the pandemic.

If reelected, the mayor said he would focus on job training, establishing more commercial districts and bouncing back from the pandemic.

Duggan, a former Wayne County prosecutor and deputy Wayne County executive, first took office in 2014 after mounting a write-in campaign in the 2013 primary and defeating the late-Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon that fall. He was reelected in 2017 with more than 70% of the vote over former state Sen. Coleman Young II.

Adams and 'inspiring people'

Adams celebrated Tuesday night with about two dozen supporters at his headquarters on Livernois after polls closed. He had gospel music playing in an old building with no central air conditioning confident that he’d be taking the mayor’s office in January. 

“It's been a wonderful experience so far,” he told The Detroit News. “This race is really about inspiring people that we can truly get to the next level. If we continue to work together and work for a common purpose which is to uplift everybody in our city.”

Adams, 65, built his campaign on Detroit's crime and poverty rates, accusing Duggan of "benign neglect." He insists there is "a clear need for change" following the city's over-taxation of residents and infrastructure failures.

If elected, Adams said he would sign an executive order halting the transfer of property to the Wayne County treasurer for tax foreclosure. He then would focus on affordable housing, a community policing strategy and launch a general day of amnesty that he calls, "Get Yourself Together Day."

Detroit Mayor candidate Anthony Adams speaks on the phone with supporters from his campaign headquarters in Detroit on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

The past general counsel and president of Detroit public schools, Adams also was interim director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. 

Adams said Tuesday he’s the only candidate who understands residents' fear of being evicted from their homes, being flooded out of their basements and crime in the city. 

“We have to assure people that there is a place for people in the city that we all can can band together and understand that greatness that's within us is,” he said. “That is what is not being said, we are great, we can do great things, we have to draw upon that DNA of our collective experience in order to make sure that people do not have to be worried about being overtaxed out at homes.”

Anthony Adams hugs campaign supporter Catherine Phillips after hearing results as a candidate for Detroit mayor on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

Jones, 26, unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2017 and now has a master's in business administration. Jones said she's making another run because government has "continuously failed ... to redress inequities in our policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity." She is an account manager for Google, where she leads diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

"The current administration is lacking accountability, transparency and real engagement," Jones said. "I plan to change this by being a very involved mayor who really cares about her residents."

Barrow, 71, said he decided in April to step into the race under the campaign banner "Real Detroiter," after he hadn't seen other challengers to Duggan who could "bring the energy."

It's Barrow's second go-around with Duggan for the mayoral post after challenging him in 2013 — Barrow's fifth run for the office overall. He previously challenged Dave Bing and the late Coleman A. Young, unsuccessfully running for the office in 1985, 1989 and 2009.

Barrow is playing up "local pride" in the city that he contends is recovering from an unjust bankruptcy. The former practicing certified public accountant has led the civic group Citizens for Detroit's Future and has been a watchdog and advocate for election reforms. 

Candidate Kiawana Brown, a minister, passed out fliers late Tuesday trying to convince voters to see the difference she could make for the city. She finished fifth with 1.9% of the vote.

“I’m excited as the polls close. We’ve worked," Brown said. "When you do this type of work, you get to the end and think of what you could have done and you realize how much you did. We’ve been literally riding through the city every day." 

Other contenders include FOCUS: Hope community director Jasahn Larsosa; Detroit budget manager Charleta McInnis; past mayoral challenger Danetta Simpson; Art Tyus, who formerly ran for state representative; and publisher D. Etta Wilcoxon.

Brown, 43, has served in a ministry for 15 years and is founder of Zoe House of Beauty, a nonprofit with a mission to “Beautify Women from the Inside Out." The most pressing issue, she said, is the deterioration of city neighborhoods and addressing fair housing and employment. 

Larsosa, 41, is director of advocacy, equity and community empowerment at Focus: HOPE. 

Larsosa is focused on growing generational wealth through increased homeownership and contends he's the candidate to bridge the "tale of two Detroits" together.

McInnis, 45, emphasized her experience serving as the city's budget manager for the past 18 years and as the second deputy fire commissioner for two years. Her focus is on requiring background checks on gun purchases, increasing teacher salaries in the city, and making college affordable.

Simpson, 50, unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2017. She was among half of the 2017 mayoral candidates who were convicted felons. 

Tyus,57, a butcher, spent years working in cyber technology and is now an information specialist.The most pressing issue facing the city, he says, is HIV and a housing crisis. If elected, he'll create a senior council just to focus on elder community needs. 

Wilcoxon, publisher and editor of the Renaissance Observer, touts herself as "the peoples' advocate." Wilcoxon, 64, previously ran for state representative, city clerk, city council and Congress.

She contends Detroiters are being robbed by a water drainage tax, over-taxation on properties and a lack of access to jobs that pay a meaningful wage, and she's not impressed with Detroit's demolition program.