Ken Whittaker, a politically active Detroiter, responds to a Deadline Detroit request for comments on an article posted Saturday afternoon (text below) and a WXYZ news report suggesting a role in the two-day-old mayoral campaign of write-in candidate Mike Dugeon, a 31-year-old barber.
Whittaker acknowledges speaking supportively to Dugeon, but says in a precisely worded 236-word statement that he has "no formal affiliation with Mike Dugeon's campaign for mayor or any other mayoral campaign." That careful use of "formal" leaves wiggle room.
He stresses in a cover message that "I am not a [Benny] Napoleon supporter," although his wife is. "To say that I am a Napoleon supporter because of my wife's yard sign in front our house is sexist and an insult to independent thought."
That said, Whittaker adds that he won't vote for Mike Duggan
In his three-paragraph response, the 38-year-old Democratic activist says he didn't create Dugeon's social media accounts "or urge him to run."
Whittaker promoted the campaign's Facebook page with tweets shortly after it was posted Thursday. (See screen image at end of this article.)
He confirms contacting the barber, who works slightly more than a mile from his home.
I wished him luck in his effort and discussed his opportunity to use the publicity he has garnered to bring attention to any causes or concerns he believes are important.
I joined hundreds of people in "liking" Mike Dugeon’s Facebook page and shared its message through social media. This has been the extent of my involvement."
The Democratic loyalist's reference to hundreds of Facebook "likes" is disingenuous. On Thursday, he tweeted "3,206 likes in four hours" about the new page's too-good-to-be-believed instant popularity surge.
The suspiciously high number had declined to about 700 on Saturday after peaking above 3,400 Friday. An aide to Mike Duggan had publicly suggested the original total may have been inflated by paid support.
Whittaker's emailed comments conclude:
I am just a Detroit resident who will support the best candidate for mayor. Above all, I am a private citizen that lives in a house with more than one voter and political preference. My personal political beliefs, actions and vote should remain private. After this attack on my character, I am definitely not voting for Mike D-U-G-G-A-N.
Saturday, 4:38 p.m.:
WXYZ seems to have uncovered the Donald Segretti of Campaign '13. (Google the name, kids).
Indications point to Kenneth R. Whittaker as a behind-the scenes operative who helped propel northwest Detroit barber Mike Dugeon from obscurity to mayoral write-in candidate in a day.
Whittaker, a 38-year-old northwest Detroiter, has a computer science background, political experience and social media skills. He lives a mile and a half north of Big D's Barber Shop on Livernois in the University District, where Dugeon works.
Most notably, as TV reporter Kimberly Craig found, he apparently supports Benny Napoleon's mayoral campaign. Aides to Mike Duggan, also running as an Aug. 6 primary write-in candidate, have said they believe Napoleon backers or his campaign are helping the newcomer to create name confusion.
Craig spoke to Whittaker and Dugeon, who registered Thursday as a candidate.
Dugeon denies having anything to do with the launch of a Dugeon for Detroit Facebook page that popped up shortly after he registered to run, and thought a man named Ken Whittaker created the account after Whittaker approached him to be his "social networking campaign manager".
Action News tracked down Whittaker at his home, where one of Benny Napoleon's campaign signs was prominently placed in the front lawn.
Whittaker admitted that he went to talk to Dugeon Friday morning. Dugeon tells Action News that Whittaker popped up at his house early Friday to talk more about assisting him in his campaign.
Outside his home, Whittaker said his wife is the one who supports Napoleon and that he is undecided. . . . In June, Whittaker appeared to support Napoleon, posting on Facebook: "Benny Napoleon Volunteer Appreciation & Recruitment Rally - TODAY."
Whittaker sent six tweets about Dugeon from his personal Twitter feed Thursday. All remained online Saturday afternoon, as pictured below.
Whittaker, a Renaissance High graduate who studied computer science at Alabama State University, works with his wife as local distributors for a Memphis manufacturer of safety alarms and other child-protection gear for day care vans and school buses. He has been politically active since at least 2007.
He began as communications director for the Young Democrats Young Democrats of Michigan, according to his LinkedIn profile, and later served as vice-chair of the Michigan party's youth caucus and president of the statewide Young Democrats.
In Detroit, he works with the party's 14th Congressional District organization, including as designer and host of its website through a four-year-old business he and his wife own, ShayKen Enterprises, LLC.