Game on: Mike Duggan all-but-officially in Detroit mayor's race

Sep 26, 2012

Detroit Medical Center chief Mike Duggan has all-but-officially thrown his hat into the Detroit mayor’s race.

Duggan filed papers Wednesday to create a campaign committee to raise money while he explores that possibility.

"I've never seen things this bad," Duggan said in a statement explaining his run. "This month we had 32 murders in 15 days, the city's plan to replace streetlights collapsed in Lansing, and the city just ran up another $40 million deficit in the last quarter despite the consent agreement.

”Over the next 90 days, we're going to see if our team can develop a plan that can be successful in turning the city around and whether we have a campaign plan that can succeed in winning this election. Then we'll make a decision."

Duggan has been known as a force for years in Detroit political circles, but mostly behind the scenes. He served as former Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara’s deputy for many years. McNamara’s administration launched many prominent Michigan politicians, including that of former Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Duggan has only held elected office once, when he was Wayne County prosecutor. But he left that office mid-way through his term to run the Detroit Medical Center, where he helped broker an $800 million takeover by Vanguard Health Systems.

Detroit political consultant Steve Hood, who has worked for Duggan in the past, said Duggan has proved he can turn a struggling entity around—and raise a lot of money.

But Hood said what Duggan—who is white, and bought a home in Detroit just a months ago—hasn’t proved is that he empathize with the average Detroiter.

“He needs to listen,” Hood said. “That’s what really happens in these 90 days. He needs to listen, and build up a stack of cash. Because the more cash he builds up…it will be a barrier to entry to anybody else in the race.”

Detroit State Representative Lisa Howze is the only declared candidate in the race so far. Mayor Dave Bing has not yet formally announced whether he’ll seek re-election, though he’s privately told some supporters that he will.

Whoever Detroit’s mayor next mayor, that person will likely have to govern with significant input from Lansing—the city and the state have a consent agreement meant to stabilize Detroit’s finances.

Hood said the city still has “untold resources,” even if it’s in a “horrible financial state.” He said the next mayor will likely need a bold plan that includes selling off some of its assets, especially land.

“Whoever gets in office in 2014, they must hit the ground running with a plan,” Hood said. “And they also have to be enough of a politician to sell that plan to the public.”