Mike Duggan elected mayor of Detroit as city awaits bankruptcy filing outcome

Duggan will become city's first white mayor since 1974, leading polls by a comfortable margin over his African American rival

Detroit elected its first white mayor since 1974 on Tuesday as the city awaited the outcome of an historic bankruptcy filing.

Mike Duggan, a onetime hospital executive, led by a comfortable margin going into the polls over his African American rival, Wayne County sheriff Benny Napoleon. By 11pm, Duggan had 56% of the vote and Napoleon 44% with 88% of the votes counted. The Detroit Free Press called the result for Duggan.

It was the first time since the end of the Vietnam war that the city's majority African American voters have elected a white mayor.

The election of a white mayor in a city that has been dominated by racial politics for decades comes as the US bankruptcy court in Detroit weighs whether the city can officially go bust, weighed down by debts estimated at between $18-$20bn.

On Tuesday, the court heard from former Michigan state treasurer Andy Dillon who warned ahead of the bankruptcy filing that the move "looks premeditated" and argued that the state needed to do a better job of explaining why it was necessary. The trial, scheduled to end this week, could spill over into next week.

The city is currently under the control of emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr, who is pushing for the so-called chapter 9 bankruptcy, the largest in US history. Unions and pension funds are pressing for the judge to dismiss the case, claiming the city failed to hold "good-faith" negotiations and are favoring Wall Street investors over the city's workers and retirees.

Both Duggan and Napoleon said they would press for Orr to be removed as soon as possible so that they could get on with running the city if elected. Duggan said this week that his first move would be to tackle the city's crime rate and police response times. Detroit has one of the highest violent crime rates in the US.

Speaking outside the courthouse, retiree Suzanne Mancha said: "I keep a tally of all the promises these people make. I'm lucky if they do two out of the 20 things they promise."

Megan Heeres, art curator and community art and garden programme manager at Lafayette Greens, one of Detroit's city gardens, said she was worried about what the new mayor will and won't be able to do.

"In the short term, the emergency manager (Kevyn Orr) is really in charge of the city. I think it's important we elect a mayor and a council that can talk with the manager," she said.

Duggan struggled to make it to the polls. The business executive, who specialised in turnarounds, moved to Detroit from the affluent, mostly white suburb of Livonia. Opponents had him kicked off the August 6 primary ballot after challenging whether he met residency requirements.

Duggan initially withdrew from the race but was persuaded by supporters to run as a write-in candidate. He won more than 50% of the vote despite opponents' bids to confuse voters by mounting the candidacy of a barber named Mike Dugeon.


Dominic Rushe in Detroit

The GuardianTramp

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