Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

August 18, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Debunking myths about Detroit

Myth No. 1: Everyone “knows” that Detroiters are deeply biased against anyone who is not “one of them,” which means anyone living outside the city and, especially, anyone white.

Myth No. 2: Detroiters are also fundamentally ignorant, largely illiterate, and would rather suffer in their murderous hellhole of a city than give up any amount of political control.

There are lots of people who have long believed both things. To be sure, the actions of some of the city’s politicians — the criminal and sexually promiscuous mayor; the disappearing city council president —have often helped further the worst stereotypes.

Yet Detroiters recently went to the polls and, in an amazingly stunning result, proved both myths decisively wrong. More than half the voters cast write-in votes for a candidate who is white, wasn’t on the ballot, and has lived in the city barely a year.

Everyone knew that Mike Duggan, previously a longtime resident of the lily-white suburb of Livonia, moved to Detroit just to run for mayor. Yet not only did a majority of all voters write his name in, but something like 85 percent of it spelled it exactly. Thousands of others wrote things like “M. Duggan” or “Michael Duggan.”

Voters were not in a mood to be distracted.

The news media went crazy a few days before the election when a new write-in candidate appeared in what was clearly a strategy designed to confuse voters.

Mike Dugeon, a barber who had never previously voted, suddenly decided to run as a write-in, after being led to the clerk’s office by Charlie LeDuff, a reporter for Detroit’s Fox affiliate.

That led to predictions things would be hopelessly confused, and that there might be a Florida recount-style battle over which write-in votes were legal and which were not.

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