Bankole: Duggan’s son a puzzling choice for Whitmer transition

Bankole Thompson
Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer

Mayor Mike Duggan tried to replace Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer on the Democratic ticket. He failed. On the night of her election, Duggan wasn’t even gracious enough to be present on stage for her victory speech. He came in earlier at the start of the watch party, assured the party faithful of an all-round victory later that evening and left immediately.

After the results came in and Bill Schuette conceded the race to Whitmer as the 49th governor of Michigan, it was Warren Evans, the Wayne County executive, and other elected officials who were standing next to the incoming governor during her remarks. The leader of the city that will need her help wasn’t on stage. It was bad optics and in poor taste.

But two weeks after Whitmer’s election, members of her leadership council, a group of current and former legislators supportive of her efforts, received an email on Nov. 15 from campaign staffer Scottie Marie Barton.

The email, which contained links to how people can be involved with the future Whitmer administration as the January inauguration nears, named the mayor’s son, Ed Duggan, as the director of external affairs for the transition team and urged all questions be directed to him.

The email immediately raised eyebrows from several people who were copied on it. Some of them were baffled because they believe the mayor hasn’t been that supportive of Whitmer’s campaign and are very worried that the latest appointment would be publicly viewed as nothing but a reward.

In fact, one supporter of Whitmer who is a member of the leadership group sent me a message headlined “Duggan-controlled,” a reference to the son’s appointment.

The younger Duggan didn’t return two messages left on the number provided by the Whitmer camp.

“That’s a pretty significant position. It is a trusted position. It means they trust you enough to be the guy, the go-between in the community,” veteran Detroit political consultant Eddie McDonald told me.

McDonald worked with Ed Duggan in the past, including hiring him in 2012 to work as the Western Wayne director for the successful Detroit Institute of Art millage campaign. And most recently, when Duggan was appointed the director of the 2018 campaign for Detroit, McDonald ran the statewide campaign.

McDonald further explains how the appointment makes Ed Duggan the "gatekeeper" of the transition team.

“If you look at how external affairs works in corporate environments and government departments, you are the connection to labor, faith-based groups, community organizations and everyone who needs to be in contact with the transition,” McDonald said. “To a certain degree you get to recommend who gets and who doesn’t get in front of the committee. Because you have 48 days left before swearing in, you have a lot of people who want to get to the governor.”

One prominent supporter of Whitmer told me recently that while the public is very much aware of the machinations that played out during the campaign — including Duggan’s attempts to find an alternative candidate to the governor-elect — she won’t be told what to do by anyone, including the mayor.

Well, that remains to be seen now. Perception sometimes is stronger than reality. Whether Ed Duggan’s appointment is based on merit or nepotism, it will serve Whitmer well to make sure that her administration doesn’t look like the former Wayne County McNamara political machine. Some of her supporters told me that the appointment smacks of an incoming governor trying to capitulate to Duggan when she didn’t have to. They believe she should run her show and let the mayor run his.

If anything, the Whitmer administration in Lansing shouldn’t be an extension of the Duggan regime. Period. We expect her to work with the mayor to help Detroiters, but that doesn't mean Duggan should be calling the shots.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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