Detroit mayoral race features colorful candidates & early frontrunners

DETROIT — America’s “Comeback City” will hold its first mayoral election since it emerged from bankruptcy and emergency management and while it’s taking shape as a two-man race,  the pool of candidates looks interesting.

Detroit’s mayor is elected on a non-partisan basis, where the candidates are not listed by political party—but the last time Detroit had a Republican mayor, Germany was the only country whose imported cars threatened the American auto industry, the moon was not a place where any human beings were expected to set foot any time soon, and African-Americans in the Deep South didn’t eat in the same restaurants as whites. The year was 1962.

Detroit is also known for its “bed sheet ballots” and in keeping with that, approximately 20 people pulled petitions in a quest to appear on the August 8 primary ballot, but most likely not all of them will make the April 25th  deadline, when they must submit 500 valid signatures from city residents, who are also registered voters. The top two primary election finishers will advance to the general election on November 7, 2017.

The great interest in challenging the incumbent, Mike Duggan, who is seeking a second term, could be indicative of either naked personal ambition or deep dissatisfaction with Duggan’s performance so far. Regardless, the race has already seen one early casualty. Duggan’s early lone challenger, accountant Devonna Harvey, bowed out of the race and dissolved her candidate committee.

That leaves the field wide open with one legacy candidate in the form of Coleman A. Young, II, the son of Detroit’s first African American mayor, Coleman A. Young. Young II, age 34, is a current state senator, who formally announced his candidacy at his dad’s former campaign office in the heart of Detroit’s “Avenue of Fashion.” Since then, Young II has created the “Young Movement” and has made many bold media appearances in recent days.

Millennials have also moved into the mayoral mix with Michigan State University student Myya D. Jones, age 22, declaring her candidacy. Ms. Jones has a website that features her background as a mental health advocate and former intern for U.S. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. But, Jones is not the youngest candidate to enter the race because that distinction belongs to 21-year old Ken Snapp, a political science major/community activist whose key initiatives include early childhood education, implementing effective procedures for Detroit taxpayers, lowering insurance rates and ending homelessness in the city.

Also joining the race are Detroit curator/artist/businesswoman, Ingrid LaFleur,  who cites the city’s lack of a cultural affairs department like when Mayor Coleman Young was in office. Veteran attorney William Noakes and educator, Jeffery Robinson also announced their respective campaigns, but a recent voter poll released by MIRS News Service out of Lansing, shows that Mike Duggan has a significant lead over his opponents.

According to MIRS News Service, Duggan has 46%  support, State Senator Coleman Young, II has 21% support, and the other 33% responded as “other” or  undecided.

Race popped up as a polling factor with 24% of respondents saying it was important to them to have an African-American mayor. However, 76% said it was not important.

Duggan apparently beats Young by big margins with white voters and older voters. But, Duggan has less than 50% support among likely Detroit voters.

And, while many say that the Motor City has rebounded for the better, voters are smart and not apt to give all the credit to Mike Duggan, who has been aided by the likes of the late visionary Mike Ilitch, who really forged the path for Detroit’s comeback followed by billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert and other investors.

(T. Monica Martin is a Detroit-based political writer for