Political Hot Stove: More to the Mike-Duggan-for-mayor rumors than meets the eye?
According to conventional wisdom, DMC CEO and proverbial guy-behind-the-guy Mike Duggan will be elected as Detroit’s first white mayor since Ray Gribbs. It’s such a sure thing that, to hear some folks tell it, the 2013 race will be but a formality.
There’s no question Duggan’s background qualifies him for the gig and he certainly has the political chops to win, but is Duggan for mayor really the play here?
It seems like a long-shot gambit for a guy as shrewd as Mike Duggan. The cost, in terms of political capital, for a white guy to win a Detroit mayoral race would be steep. Then he/she would have to face the ignoble task of actually governing the city.
Don’t tell me a white candidate for mayor of Detroit won’t face a racially brutal campaign. Just ask Dennis Archer c. 2003 or Freman Hendrix c. 2005 about race and mayoral elections, and they’re both black.
Allow me to spin an alternative scenario.
Duggan allows his name to be floated as the business community’s preferred alternative to Mayor Dave Bing. Seeing his base deserting him, Bing retires after one term and leaves an open race for 2013. Then Duggan, after careful reflection decides against running (so he can spend more time with his family), and endorses a loyal African-American ally who now becomes the business community’s new favorite candidate.
Playing the scenario out, Duggan’s favored guy wins and then supports a 2014 Duggan run for Wayne County executive. Given Bob Ficano’s troubles, this is a race Duggan could win virtually without spending any political capital.
Veteran political consultant Adolph Mongo also thinks there’s more to the Duggan chatter than meets the eye.
Mongo even has a potential mayoral candidate in mind to make the play work—former Supreme Court Justice and former DMC executive Conrad Mallett.
“Duggan understands he can win a countywide election,” he said, adding that: “Mallett has always indicated he wanted to be mayor.”
Mongo also believes, with all the pieces positioned on the proverbial game board, the now-Executive Mike Duggan and now-Mayor Conrad Mallett could be a “1-2 punch” to engineer an Indianapolis-style merger of city and county governments.
“They would be a match made in heaven to start the process of consolidating these cities into a single government,” he said.
There’s a certain elegance to the plan. Wayne County suburbs might be more comfortable with a consolidation effort led by Duggan, who came up in western Wayne County political circles.
Given Duggan’s newly minted Detroit resident status, he might have more street cred selling consolidation than your average county exec. selling consolidation to the city. Especially if Detroit’s mayor is totally on board from the start.
Now, this is all pure speculation. Of course, so is the Duggan for mayor talk. Until people actually announce their campaigns, this is all a parlor room game.
Duggan’s been coy about the mayoral talk and he’s also said not interested in the executive race, but that's exactly what he would say that if this were a game of political misdirection. Pretty much every president ever has said they weren’t planning a run for the White House in the months before they announce.
And, yes, this is also what Duggan would say if he is truly is pondering an office in CAYMAC. So, like I said, it's all parlor room. Unlike many of the Duggan for mayor speculators, I'm telling you that straightaway.
The thing of it is, with a political chess master like Duggan, you just have to assume the game might be more complicated than it appears.