Mike Duggan accomplished something in Detroit's mayoral primary that may never have been done before: He won as a write-in.
By early Wednesday morning, with most of the city's 614 precincts reporting, Duggan and popular Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon had clear leads over the rest of the field in the race to lead the largest U.S. city in history to file for bankruptcy. Napoleon managed to win about 30 percent of the vote, while Duggan won around 47 percent of the vote. The 14 other candidates who were knocked out of the field won about 16 percent of the vote, meaning Duggan and Napoleon will be competing for those votes in the Nov. 5 general election.
While Detroit is at a pivotal turning point, the new mayor will have little power. Like current Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit's new mayor will inherit a city in fiscal ruin. Bing, whose role was supplanted in March when the state hired an emergency mayor over Detroit's finances, chose not to seek re-election to a second term.
But the presence of the city's emergency manager, bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr, and his almost limitless power under Michigan's emergency manager law have not dissuaded Duggan or Napoleon.
Duggan, in fact, came under fire during the campaign when it was revealed he helped Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., choose Orr for the role of emergency manager. On Tuesday night, however, he told supporters, "We're going to go see Gov. Snyder ... and it will be time to thank Mr. Orr for his services and send him back to Washington D.C."
He earlier told the Associated Press, "My preference would be for the governor to dissolve the emergency manager and let the mayor represent the city in bankruptcy court."
Duggan became president and chief executive of the Detroit Medical Center in 2004 and is credited with helping turn the system around and back to profitability. He is a former Wayne County prosecutor and deputy county executive.
His opponent also has experience in county politics.
Napoleon was appointed in 2004 as assistant Wayne County executive and was appointed sheriff in 2009. He was re-elected sheriff last year. He spent three years as Detroit police chief before retiring in 2001 after a long career on the force. Napoleon also has said he opposes an emergency manager in Detroit.
The last time a candidate ran for the mayor's job as a write-in was in the 1920s, and Charles Bowles lost that race, according to Elections Director Daniel Baxter. Tuesday's election numbers will be unofficial until certified by county canvassers, who also must pore over each write-in ballot and a variety of spelled names to determine who gets those votes.
Mike Dugeon, a Detroit barber who had never voted in a city election, filed at the last minute to also run as a mayoral write-in candidate. Duggan supporters were concerned the similarities in their names would confuse voters. It didn't appear Dugeon's name was at heart of their confusion.
There were a plethora of write-in names similar to Duggan, including "Dyggan" and "Dugger." There also were "Mik Duggans," "Mike Duggins" and even just Duggans with no first name listed.