DETROIT (WWJ) – In the midst of tumultuous times — including bankruptcy and financial oversight by the state — the predominantly black city of Detroit has elected a white mayor for the first time in 40 years.
Election results show former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon 55 to 45 percent. Officials said voter turnout was less than 20 percent, with all of the city’s 614 precincts reporting.
Duggan, who overcame the outsider label and numerous legal challenges before winning the election, thanked all of his supporters during a rally at the Renaissance Center Ballroom.
“I will never forget the way you carried me in the depths of those days when I was thrown off the ballot and then through what looked like an uphill and longshot struggle as a write-in candidate, and then to victory tonight,” he said.
Duggan also took time to acknowledge his challenger.
“It’s been an amazing year and we ran a campaign against a very strong opponent who gave us a tough race, brought it very close at the end and it’s a good time right now to salute Sheriff Napoleon for this lifetime commitment to the city of Detroit,” he told the cheering crowd.
Shortly after 11 p.m. Napoleon spoke to his supporters and commended Duggan for his efforts in the race for Detroit’s top spot.
“I do want to congratulate Mike for his campaign. He went out and he worked hard, as I did. He had a year head start on me and about five times more money, but the fact is hey, the people have spoken,” he said.
Despite losing the election, Napoleon promised to carry on the fight for Detroiters.
“This is not the time for us to hold our heads down, this is the time for us to stand up and be prepared to move forward and fight harder because we have something to fight for. It’s about the future of our children and the Detroit that we want to leave for our babies. This is not over,” he said.
Duggan will have little power under state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, who in July filed to take Detroit into bankruptcy.
Orr issued a statement saying his office will meet with Mayor-elect Duggan in the coming days to discuss their future collaboration on the city’s turnaround.
“In this time of important change for the city, Detroiters have come together to voice their desire for progress. I look forward to working with Mayor-elect Mike Duggan to build the vibrant and strong future the citizens of Detroit deserve,” Orr said.
Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement he looks forward to working with Duggan on making the city “a safe and attractive place for people to live, work, invest, and do business.”
“These are challenging times for our state’s largest city as we resolve problems that have been decades in the making. But I know that brighter days are ahead and Detroit’s turnaround is already underway. My administration and I are committed to working collaboratively with Mayor-elect Duggan to ensure better services to the 700,000 people of Detroit and take the steps necessary to complete Detroit’s comeback as a vibrant, thriving city,” he said.
Snyder said Duggan’s background in finances and experience in turning around the Detroit Medical Center should serve him well in his new role.
Duggan is Detroit’s first white mayor since Roman Gribbs, who decided not to seek re-election for a term that ended in 1973.