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Duggan and Dugeon poised for alpha-battle

This week, it’s another shenanigans edition of It’s Just Politics. Thanks to Jack Lessenberry for his explainer on the latest political mischiefcoming out of Detroit. It’s important to note this kind of political behavior is nothing new: Very crowded primary ballots with names that are very similar; recruited by opposing campaigns. Efforts to divide the vote can also take into account ethnicity, gender when one side recruits candidates with no hope of winning but, can maybe split the vote to sink another campaign come Election Day. No matter what you think of political games, they’re pretty normal.

Mike Duggan, former hospital CEO, prosecutor and problem-solver for the late Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara launched his Detroit mayoral write-in campaign after he was booted from the ballot after one his opponents challenged him for filing his nomination petitions before he was a city resident for a full-year. But a lot of experts were giving his write-in effort a pretty good shot at getting him into the two-person runoff this coming fall. He’s topping the polls and appeared to have a good shot at winning a spot on the November runoff.

Then, suddenly, welcome Mike Dugeon. Yes, that’s D-U-G-E-O-N. The  previously unknown Detroit barber who has never voted, but suddenly has a Facebook page, campaign website and a slogan remarkably similar to the other Mike Duggan’s and filed his own write-in campaign. Usually these similar-name candidates are an effort to splinter the vote by baffling voters. This appears to be an effort to baffle the elections board that will tally the votes. Detroit could be headed for its own hanging-chads moment.  That’s because the elections board will have to make a determination which Duggan/Dugeon will get any votes that are misspelled. The names don’t have to be spelled exactly right to be counted. And it’s up to the elections board to make the determination. But count on it – there will be a fight over every write-in vote not spelled absolutely correctly (and, we should mention: penmanship counts in write-in campaigns too).

But, we certainly can’t pretend these shenanigans only happen in Detroit.  In fact, we’re in a sort of Golden Era of Games in Politics here in Michigan. It’s getting close to a year since a one-judge Ingham County grand jury started its inquiry into BolgerGate. In May of last year, state House Speaker Jase Bolger engineered the party-switch of Democrat-turned-Republican Representative Roy Schmidt. The whole scheme unraveled when a patsy candidate recruited by Schmidt and his son got a lot of unwelcome attention and then backed out after it was learned he didn’t really live in Schmidt’s district. Schmidt was shamed as he went from Republican trophy to white elephant. He went on to lose to Democrat Winnie Brinks who, interestingly enough, got on the ballot as a write-in candidate.

And, the Bolger/Schmidt saga is still not done. The political news service MIRS recently got in touch with Schmidt, who told them he’s thinking of trying to launch a political comeback. He said his decisions depend largely on what comes out of the grand jury investigation. The investigation’s deadline to wrap up is late August (that’s after a six-month extension was granted in February). We’ll see if any criminal charges come out of that.

And, we certainly can’t forget about the resignation of Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, former Republicanpresidential hopeful, guitar hero and caustic wit. His campaign used fake signatures to get his name on the ballot. And apparently it wasn’t the first time. McCotter was booted from the ballot. Soon he resigned in disgrace. The only remaining Republican was Kerry Bentiviolio who, himself, beat a write-in effort to get another Republican on the ballot.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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