Bankole: Duggan plays a Coleman A. Young card in race

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

For some reason, Mayor Mike Duggan sees state Sen. Coleman Young II either as a real threat to his re-election prospects, or he simply wants to win in November by a margin that leaves no doubt in the minds of Detroiters about his standing as mayor.

To undercut Young II from making any connection to the legacy of his legendary father, the late Mayor Coleman A. Young, the Duggan campaign last week released a list of 25 former Young appointees who are endorsing the mayor.

Shahida Mausi, who served as Young’s executive director of the Detroit Council of the Arts (1982-94), said: “We’ve owned a home since the 1930s that is now part of the resurgence of Midtown. My grandparents were business owners on Linwood street. They employed only a few people. Today, our family-owned business employs more than 300 people. Our business has a stake in this town, and we believe Mayor Mike Duggan’s leadership will continue to enable (both native Detroiters and new Detroiters) to flourish that is in the best interest of everyone in Detroit.”

Others in the group were Anthony Adams, Charlie Beckham, Linda Bernard and Emmett Moten.

Duggan added: “Mayor Coleman A. Young was one of the greatest mayors in American history. I’m honored and truly grateful to have the support of so many people who worked alongside Mayor Young as part of his administration.”

The endorsements, which join a long list of supporters from various groups for Duggan before the April 25 filing deadline, is somewhat of a political grenade coming from a campaign that seems deeply worried about Young II.

What else would be driving the campaign to galvanize former staffers of the late mayor to declare their preferred candidate in the upcoming contest?

Only time will tell if this grenade hit the right target and whether the endorsement will carry any weight.

Last week’s action also possibly validates Young II as a credible candidate against the incumbent.

Duggan would be better served in this campaign by forcing Young II to stand on his record as a state senator, pushing him to explain what kinds of legislation he supported in Lansing that has helped to improve the lives of his constituents. In turn, the mayor should also defend his record, citing his accomplishments as well as the shortcomings of his first term.

Invoking the legacy of Coleman A. Young by reaching out to people who worked for him to make a case against his son has no redeeming value for Duggan. It is not a smart political calculation because it could backfire.

Does the Duggan campaign really believe that the former mayor loved those 25 staffers more than his son?

If Coleman A. Young was alive today, would those 25 have endorsed Duggan over his son given that the former mayor helped make their careers?

The staffers, some of whom are civic leaders, could have easily expressed support for Duggan without simply using the name of the former mayor as a weapon to do so.

At first I didn’t believe that Young II could be a force to reckon with in this upcoming campaign even though his last name would surely make Duggan feel unease. I knew his name would appeal to seniors in the city who are reliable voters, but that is not the sum total of the election.

But the latest actions of Duggan’s campaign against a candidate who has not even fully rolled out a campaign operation is a sign that there is some fire on the mountain. Honestly the Duggan campaign is helping empower Young II’s candidacy by forcefully coming out against him months before the primary.

Maybe the mayor’s campaign knows something we don’t. Perhaps the campaign is just not taking any chances.

Whatever it is, the contest for the city’s top job should be based squarely on the record of the candidates and not about the record of the man who died years ago after serving as the city’s first African-American mayor.

Young II has a lot to answer for about his readiness to run a municipality of Detroit’s size. Duggan equally has a lot to answer about what he did and didn’t do in the last four years. That is the campaign. Not Coleman A. Young.

Twitter: @bankieT

The writer hosts “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Super Station 910AM. This column appears Mondays and Thursdays.