Mike Duggan, Anthony Adams have striking differences in Detroit's mayor race – Detroit Free Press

On Election Day, Detroit voters will have a stark choice to make to lead Michigan’s largest city.
The incumbent helped steer the city out of municipal bankruptcy, oversaw its economic revival, raised millions in campaign donations from corporations and other big donors, and secured the top vote in this summer’s primary.
His challenger, also a veteran of city government, argued more needs to be done to protect the city’s most vulnerable in its far-flung neighborhoods, while he also criticized the current mayor for failing to address many of Detroit’s deep-seated problems. 
From the beginning, almost any effort to unseat Mayor Mike Duggan would have been an uphill fight.
Duggan’s standing as the reigning mayor has allowed him to rebuff calls to debate and largely replace in-person campaigning with the near-daily mayoral news conference touting the city’s achievements, from development projects to home repair programs, from battling COVID-19 to aiding homeowners with flood damage. 
That has made his challenger, Anthony Adams a significant underdog walking into Tuesday’s contest, according to the primary election results and political observers.
In the primary, the former deputy mayor under Kwame Kilpatrick did not even win 10% of the vote. His campaign has yet to file his last two financial statements detailing his fundraising and spending. 
So Adams said in an interview he has had to rely more on grassroots community outreach to get his message out.
“I’m out pretty much all day, every day. We’re doing door-to-door, in rain. We’re doing phone banking. We’re text messaging. We’ve got TV up, we’ve got radio up,” Adams said. “My schedule is exceptionally busy because I need to touch base with people out there.”
Adams may also be battling voter apathy.
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, in an election briefing this week, said she expects 50,000 absentee ballots and 25,000 in-person votes in Tuesday’s contest. Detroit has more than 500,000 registered voters. Winfrey said she predicts the November election will mirror the August primary with about 15% to 20% of registered voters turning out.
“That’s low for a municipal general. A municipal primary, perhaps, but the general, that’s low,” Winfrey said at the briefing.
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In a recent interview, Duggan lamented the lack of his in-person campaigning this time around, compared with his other contests for mayor, but cited his role as the current mayor for the limitations in his schedule. 
“I certainly liked it more when once a week, I was sitting in someone’s living room, basement or backyard and I haven’t been able to do that nearly as often because of COVID,” Duggan said.
The mayor said he has connected with Detroiters through community Zoom calls to help fill the gap.
“I had house parties. I took the year off work in 2013, so I left DMC the last day in 2012. I campaigned in 2013 day and night. I did 250 house parties in 2013. Every single day, I was in somebody’s living room and backyard,” Duggan said.
The two candidates have put forth different visions if they are able to win on Tuesday. 
Duggan said he wants to build on the city’s successful effort to reduce blight, accelerate demolitions of dangerous buildings and pour more resources into home repairs such as fixing roofs.
In his first year of a new term, Duggan said he wants to beautify the city and grow its job base.
“I want to build a city where every single person can get a good paying job and we’re definitely heading in that direction where you can get the training or degree or go directly in the job,” Duggan said. “I want to stop talking about blight and start talking about beauty and do what we’ve done on Livernois (Avenue) … take areas where people thought of as run-down and turn them back to the Detroit I remember. This was a city of beauty.”
Read more: Mayor Mike Duggan to focus on jobs and investing in pre-K if reelected in Detroit
Adams, an attorney and ex-deputy mayor, said the city needs to stabilize vulnerable neighborhoods through more home repairs, greater reductions in crime, robust social services in schools and a slew of new job skills training programs.
In an interview, he also pledged to enact a more aggressive approach to wielding the power of the mayor by signing an executive order to stop the transfer of property to the Wayne County treasurer for tax foreclosure. Citing a University of Michigan study on substandard housing in Detroit, Adams called it a “slap in the face” that the administration is spending “a pittance” of American Rescue Plan Act funds on home repairs.
“There’s nothing being said about that. The alarm is not being sounded. No one is working on this issue and bringing the information to the people,” Adams said.
More:Anthony Adams aims to fight for neighborhoods, small businesses and lower crime in Detroit
He added that an Adams mayoral administration is committed to ending gun violence and funding intervention programs to prevent further crime in neighborhoods. With that, he would push for enhanced social services in schools to protect children.
“If the children come to school stressed out, they’re exhibiting conduct that is detrimental to their well-being,” Adams said. “Why are we not having more professionals in those buildings, working with children, to help them deal with the stresses and strains that they live with in their neighborhoods?”
One vision the two agree on is more jobs, each with a separate twist. Duggan previously said he wants to invest more in Detroit at Work’s job placement program. Adams said he wants to devote his focus on those who opted out of the workforce with programs to receive high-paying jobs.
Political observers in the city credit Duggan’s strength in part to the power of his incumbency.
“You can’t take away from it,” said Adolph Mongo, a political consultant who worked for former Mayor Coleman Young,. “People are satisfied at what they’re seeing. Why change the narrative right now? Also, what has Anthony Adams offered as an alternative?”
Adams may have waited too long to launch his bid for mayor and could not raise enough money, according to Mongo.
“Two years is a good time frame to launch a campaign. You have to beat the opposition. You have to make your case to the community,” Mongo said. 
If Adams had his way, voters in Detroit would have seen the two mayoral candidates on the same stage in advance of Tuesday’s election.
Duggan debated his previous opponents — the late Benny Napoleon and Coleman Young II —but he and his campaign manager have said that this time, Duggan will not provide a platform for Adams’ alleged divisive rhetoric.
“Each candidate makes a decision and my opponent made a decision to run a particular type of campaign,” Duggan said. “I remember Mayor (Coleman) Young had four reelections and didn’t debate in any one of them.”
Duggan said he debated Napoleon and Young Jr. because “they had substantial support.”
Adams countered that there should have been debates at the end of the primary election and before the general election. He went as far as knocking on the doors of the mayor’s Manoogian Mansion to demand a debate that Duggan avoided.
“He doesn’t want his record debated because he gets covered from the media. Because he never gets critically examined. Because no one ever is out to confront him. Because he works through his handlers to filter information. That’s the problem,” Adams said.
Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact Dana: [email protected] or 313-635-3491. Follow her on Twitter: @DanaAfana.
This guide offers information about the Nov. 2 Detroit election. Throughout the primary and general election season, the Free Press and BridgeDetroit sent questionnaires to candidates for mayor, council, clerk and police commissioner. Take a look at what candidates on your ballot as you make your decisions.