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In Detroit, mayoral candidates slug it out to the finish

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit has an emergency manager—but more than a dozen people are still vying to be the city’s next mayor.

And most of them were on hand for a debate just a week before the city’s primary election last night.

A dozen candidates took to the stage—in groups—to share why they wanted to be mayor of the bankrupt city. There were so many candidates that there few opportunities for substantive debate.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is considered one of the frontrunners—even though he’s not on the ballot. He’s waging a write-in campaign.

Duggan faced questions about “cronyism” dating back to his days as part of former Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara’s political machine.

He also responded to persistent questions about why he’s running for mayor—when he’s lived in Detroit for barely a year.

“Here’s the question that voters have to ask: What is more important…where did you live, or what did you do?” said Duggan, touting himself as a “turnaround expert” in both the public and private sectors.

One of the big questions was how the candidates would work with Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr.

Former Detroit city attorney Krystal Crittendon says she wouldn't bow to the emergency manager's statutory authority. She says city officials can still steer his actions, to a degree.

“He cannot send a check to Jones Day, his law firm, if the finance department does not authorize it,” Crittendon said. Those people work for the mayor. And if Kevyn Orr wants them to work for him, he should move to the city and run for mayor.”

Orr’s former law firm has a $3.35 million, six-month contractto help Detroit restructure and proceed through bankruptcy.

Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon are widely considered frontrunners in the race, even though Duggan is running as a write-in candidate.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the November election.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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