The latest twist to an already bizarre Detroit mayoral campaign took place Thursday when a 30-year-old barber with a name similar to that of Mike Duggan filed papers to run as a write-in candidate, and rival media outlets reported Charlie LeDuff of Fox 2 was behind the move, which supposedly started as a joke.
The new candidate is Michael Thaddeus Dugeon, who has never voted in an election and who says his platform is to "fix everything" and sell all of downtown Detroit to Dan Gilbert for $2.
Dugeon said he pronounced his name DUG-an, like Mike Duggan, but it was also pronounced DOO-gen and DUH-zhun by various newscasters.
The importance of Dugeon's filing revolves around Detroit's write-in rules, which allow misspellings, but if two names are similarly misspelled on one particular ballot, both sides could forfeit that vote. Duggan, the former Detroit Medical Center CEO, has been running for months and has a long resume of corporate and public service. He was forced to become a long-shot write-in candidate when a judge removed him from the campaign for violating technical rules about residency.
WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) and the Free Press reported Dugeon told them LeDuff suggested he file when the award-winning and controversial Fox 2 reporter showed up on his porch early Thursday. WDIV (Channel 4) reported only that "a reporter" had urged Dugeon to file.
"It blew my mind to see Charlie LeDuff on my steps at 9 o'clock in the morning," Dugeon told WXYZ's Kimberly Craig.
"Initially, I thought it was something I did wrong," Dugeon said. "He was like, 'Well wouldn't it be funny to see who would split the votes?' or something like that."
The Free Press reported Dugeon "said the idea of him running for mayor started as a joke Thursday morning" when LeDuff showed up at his Detroit home inquiring about it.
“Initially, it was brought to my attention to stir things up,” Dugeon told the paper's Matt Helms. “But when I thought about it, I thought this would be a chance for the common man to be heard. It might be a joke at first. But I’m passionate about where I’m from. I think that, in itself, is enough criteria.”
LeDuff's report on Fox 2 showed him walking to Dugeon's front door, as LeDuff's voice-over said he had had received a tip that Dugeon was thinking about filing.
In a report that was heavy on comedy, LeDuff accompanied Dugeon to city hall, where they visited the lobby of the mayor's office -- Dugeon said he didn't like the color of the walls -- and the clerk's office, where Dugeon signed an affidavit.
Asked by his colleague Huell Perkins on the "Let It Rip" show Thursday night on Fox 2 if he had pushed Dugeon to run, LeDuff denied it.
"That's ridiculous," he said. "Look, it's journalism. I get a call from a camp, a political camp, saying this guy's tied in, he's going to put his name in. So as a reporter I go over there and knock on the door. I ask him. He says no."
LeDuff said he explained the significance of the Duggan/Dugeon similarity and let Dugeon think about it.
"He likes the idea," LeDuff recalled. "He does it. I follow. End of story."
Dugeon appears to have sophisticated help. Seemingly simultaneous with his filing, a slick campaign button appeared on his campaign's new Facebook page that's similar to Duggan's. Dugeon's slogan is "Every Citizen Has a Future." Duggan's slogan says "Every Neighborhood Has A Future."
As news spread of the new candidate's entry into the race, Duggan told reporters he knew exactly who had talked Dugeon into filing. Though he didn't mention names, at least one member of his campaign team pointed to Benny Napoleon.
"The barber didn't stumble in and file on his own," Duggan said.
Jamaine Dickens, of the Napoleon campaign, ripped Duggan.
"This is a pattern of Mike Duggan's camp," Dickens said. "Every time they find themselves with a self-inflicted wound, they invoke Benny Napoleon's name."
Napoleon, appearing on WXYZ, said: "The guy said Charlie LeDuff put him up to it."
Little was known about Dugeon other than he graduated from Cooley High School before attending barber school. He cuts hair at Big D's Barbershop on Livernois and Curtis and lives on Indiana Street.
In numerous quotations on his personal Facebook page, Dugeon comes across as a normal 30-year-old, but with an attitude. He occasionally refers to women's as liars and bitches, but also said in one post: "We gotta stop putting each other down and live life like in the moment because u never know what moment will be ur last..we gotta stop being so shallow ...."
That page no comments on politics.
On "Let It Rip," LeDuff had some advice for the media outlets that were focusing on him in their reports:
"If they want to hitch themselves to my wagon, I suggest you work harder, they work harder instead of hiring pear-bottom, narrow-shouldered people. Just work."