Upcoming Detroit election: A historic opportunity for write-in candidates?

Jul 14, 2013

Write-in candidates are usually considered long shots for winning political office.

But it’s possible this upcoming Detroit election could turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is running a write-in campaign for Detroit mayor.

The Lansing-based newsletter Inside Michigan Politics recently commissioned a poll asking Detroit voters whether they’d write in a candidate for mayor.

Just under half—45.1%-- said they would. In fact, the write-in option got more votes than six candidates who are actually on the ballot.

When asked specifically whether they planned to write in Duggan, again just under half of respondents said they did.

Inside Michigan Politics editor Bill Ballenger says that getting people to actually show up at the polls and write in a candidate’s name is generally considered a steep uphill battle.

“Many people believe that simply is not going to work, and Duggan doesn’t have a chance,” says Ballenger. “But this poll indicates he has a very good chance.”

Ballenger says there are enough “peculiarities” about this particular election, the first held under Detroit’s 2012 city charter. He says in the mayor’s race--including a number of candidates with little name recognition—that a well-funded candidate like Duggan could beat the odds.

In fact, Ballenger predicts Duggan will finish in the top 2 and advance to the November general election—though he admits there’s little historical precedent for that.

“The idea that somebody could actually qualify for the November general election on a write-in campaign…it’s never happened before, at least not in Detroit,” Ballenger says.

And Ballenger says at least two other write-in candidates will pop up in this somewhat unusual election.

Detroiters will elect police commissioners for the first time under the new city charter.

But no candidates filed to run in two districts. That means at least two write-in candidates will also end up as police commissioners.