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Detroit, Seattle to Hold Nonpartisan Primaries for Mayor

July 31, 2021 by Dan McCue
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (left) and Anthony Adams (right) are both running in the city’s mayoral race. (Photographs courtesy of City of Detroit and the Anthony Adams campaign.)

Seattle and Detroit, the nation’s 18th and 21st largest cities, respectively, according to Politifact, are both holding nonpartisan primaries for mayor on Aug. 3.

In Detroit, 10 candidates are running, including incumbent Mike Duggan, who currently is expected to breeze through the primary to the November election. 

Duggan, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, is running on experience, having spent almost his entire career working in government. He’s also been highlighting his experience as CEO of the Detroit Medical Centers, which he steered out of near bankruptcy and back to profitability just before running for his first term as mayor.

As mayor, Duggan says he spent that first term focused on delivering basic services to the city — installing working street lights, reliable bus services, prompt EMS response, and clean and safe parks.

During his second term, he said, he sought to position Detroit as a significant competitor for economic development and businesses seeking to relocate to business-friendly communities.

If re-elected, he said he intends to use the $400 million the city received through the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, to make “massive” investments in public safety, fighting intergenerational poverty, closing the digital divide, and supporting small businesses.

He’s also vowing to continue clearing blight from city neighborhoods, preserving the homes that can be saved and demolishing those that can’t. 

In an endorsement that ran on July 4, the Detroit Free Press said,  “Mike Duggan has been the prohibitive favorite of voting Detroiters since 2013, when they chose him to navigate their city’s emergence from a convulsive municipal bankruptcy.” 

“Four years later, he won re-election by an even larger margin, collecting seven of every 10 votes cast in a one-sided contest with Coleman Young II,” it continued. “This year, Duggan is one of 10 candidates contending on the Aug. 3 primary for two spots in the Nov. 2 mayoral run-off. None of those rivals boasts a track record comparable to the incumbent mayor’s, and none poses a serious threat to his bid for a third four-year term.” 

In fact, the polls have been incredibly lopsided in this race for months, with 64% or more of likely voters saying they plan to support the mayor, compared to the 15% who have said they will support his closest challenger — Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams.

Dimming Adams’ prospects even further is the fact only 15% of likely voters have said they are undecided at this point.

Adams, who worked under disgraced ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and has served as a board member and lawyer for Detroit Public School, has been trying to chip away at Duggan’s substantial lead by criticizing the incumbent mayor’s policies on policing and the redevelopment of downtown.

So far, however, he appears to have gained no traction.

The other longshot contender in the race is Tom Barrow, a certified public accountant who led the civic group Citizens for Detroit’s Future.

This is Barrow’s fifth mayoral run and the second time he has competed against Duggan.

Speaking to reporters shortly after filing his papers to run, Barrow explained his candidacy by saying “Detroit is in by blood.”

“People know that I care, that I will look out for them and will protect them and not allow them to be misused,” he said.

The other candidates in the race are Kiawana Brown, Myya Jones, Jasahn Larsosa, Charleta McInnis, Danetta Simpson, Art Tyus, and D. Etta Wilcoxon.

In Seattle, incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan is not seeking reelection, and that has inspired more than a dozen candidates to file to compete in the Aug. 3 primary.

They range from longtime political pros to a pastor, an editor and publisher, and an account manager at Google, but so far, going into the final weekend of the campaign, none has set the electorate on fire.

A recent poll by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute, a public policy nonprofit, found more than 50% of likely voters are undecided, and the frontrunner, former City Council member Bruce Harrell is only supported by 20% of voters.

Current city council member M. Lorena González, at 12%, seems most likely to join him in the November runoff, with former nonprofit director Colleen Echohawk running close behind at 10%.

After those three, no one scored higher than 6% in the 15-candidate field.

The race is likely to come down to what generation of voters shows up at the polls.

In the poll, Harrell garnered the support of 36% of voters 65 and up, but only 5% among those aged 18 to 34. 

Meanwhile González has the backing of 22% of young voters, but only 4% of the city’s older citizens.

After Echohawk, the next closest candidates are former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell and architect  Andrew Grant Houston, who both pulled in 6% support. The rest of the candidates didn’t crack 5%, and will likely be eliminated in the primary. 

Among the key issues in the race are business taxes, homelessness and affordable housing, policing and public safety, and economic recovery after the pandemic.

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