Duggan’s margin of victory a lesson to Young campaign

Mayor Mike Duggan — PHOTO: Andre Smith

Just how clear does it need to be?
Now that the election is over and the voters have made it clear beyond any reasonable doubt who it is they prefer to be mayor of this city, perhaps we can put the dirt back in the ground where it belongs.
Here’s what I mean…
We’re all aware that this is a majority black city, and that Mayor Mike Duggan isn’t black. We’re also aware that former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is behind bars. Kilpatrick is most definitely black. An ad put out by the Young campaign compared Duggan’s admittedly problematic issues with how housing demolition contracts were granted to the issues that landed Kilpatrick in jail. The message was clear, saying “It’s as simple as black and white” why Kilpatrick is in jail and Duggan is not.
Yes, it’s simple all right. Duggan has yet to be charged with any crime. Kilpatrick was charged, indicted, and convicted.
Are there instances where white folks get away with murder (so to speak) in the just-us system while black folks are unjustly accused? Absolutely and without question. Happens all the time. But this is not one of those instances. And Young’s playing to Detroit’s ever-simmering racial unrest (this ad was just one example) to score some cheap political points in an effort to win a job that he is unqualified for was little more than an embarrassing stunt. Tuesday’s results bear that out.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Mayor Mike Duggan is not the perfect candidate, but Sen. Coleman Young was never a serious challenger. Because even though Duggan has been on pretty much of a roll recently, a more serious candidate could have forced Duggan into a matchup worth watching where the outcome wasn’t so dramatically assured virtually from the beginning of the race. A good political matchup nearly always creates better candidates because it forces each candidate to bring their ‘A’ game. Not that Duggan was slacking; he definitely didn’t make the mistake of taking Young for granted even after trouncing him in the August primary. But I can’t help but imagine what might have transpired with some real heat on his trail.
But alas, no heat. The challenger was barely lukewarm from beginning to finish.
Not only was Young unable to raise any noticeable amount of money, but more importantly he was unable to mobilize his base. His supporters may point to the relatively low voter turnout as evidence of the fact that Duggan can’t legitimately declare a mandate, but do they really want to go down that road? Because where it leads is to the question of why Young couldn’t energize more supporters to carry themselves to the polls. All those downtrodden Detroiters that he claims to represent, if he truly represents them at all, should have been storming the polling places.
If there was so much dissatisfaction with Duggan, then why didn’t all that dissatisfaction manifest itself at the polls? And even if the argument can be made that a significant amount of voters weren’t excited or enthused enough to support either candidate – a dreary assessment to be sure – that still doesn’t paint a prettier picture of the Young effect. All that says is that among the relative handful who showed up to vote, he was the loser. The rest, even if not enamored of Duggan, didn’t care enough about Young to get off the couch.
Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson wrote a stinging column last week that effectively destroyed Young’s argument that he represents the poor and downtrodden using nothing more than basic reporting and simple mathematics. After reviewing the primary returns from the poorest districts, it was clear as day that the residents of those neighborhoods weren’t roused to overthrow Duggan in favor of Young. Said Henderson:
“Young did not carry the majority of precincts in any of the city’s notoriously poor areas, such as the 48205 ZIP code on the east side or 48204 on the central west side. And he posted among his worst showing in 48209 and 48217, areas of deep southwest Detroit that are hard hit with residential and industrial abandonment.
“In the city’s poorest precinct, near Chandler Park on the east side where 83% of the people live in poverty, Young got 26 votes, while Duggan got 25.
“In the second-poorest precinct, on the west side in the Dexter-Linwood neighborhood, which has a poverty rate of 77%, Duggan got 32 votes while Young got 23.
“And in the Oakwood Heights neighborhood in southwest Detroit, where 70% of the residents live in poverty, Duggan got 26 votes, or 79% of the ballots cast, while Young got 6 votes, or just 18%.”
That about wraps it up. So let’s put the dirt back in the ground where it belongs.


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