When Mike Duggan moved from Livonia to Palmer Woods in 2012, he tried to quash any rumors that he was planning to run for mayor.
“There is nothing here to talk about,” Duggan responded to a Free Press reporter’s question about running for mayor in an e-mail. “Living in Detroit is a personal life choice and not a declaration of candidacy for anything.
“Sure hope you’ve got more interesting things to cover.”
But e-mails and bankruptcy testimony later revealed an entirely different narrative. Duggan had been planning to run for mayor for about a year and was even asked by Gov. Rick Snyder to be the emergency manager. While publicly decrying emergency management, Duggan privately advised state officials on how best to handle the financial takeover and said he’d be a supportive partner during a state intervention, the records show.
On Wednesday, a Free Press columnist asked the mayor if he planned to run for governor, a question on the minds of many who gathered at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference this week.
Once again, Duggan became dismissive, even indignant, during a question-and-answer period.
“I will not be a candidate. Don’t ask me again,” Duggan said sternly.
Whatever the case, Duggan raised more than $200,000 in campaign contributions during the final two months of 2014, an astounding amount for a sitting mayor.
In Lansing, Duggan is largely considered the Democrats’ best hope of reclaiming the governorship because he has wide support from both parties in the suburbs, and his network of campaign supporters increased what has historically been an abysmal voter turnout in Detroit, the state’s largest city. Duggan also has the ability to raise a lot of money from the growing business community in Detroit, and billionaire Dan Gilbert has been a strong ally.
Duggan also has surrounded himself with seasoned Democrats, perhaps most notably Tom Lewand, who served as chief of staff to Gov. Jim Blanchard and was the chairman of the state Democratic Party in the late 1980s. He later worked for Gov. Jennifer Granholm to help restructure the Detroit Medical Center, where Duggan became the CEO.
A Duggan appointee told me late Wednesday that the mayor has not indicated what he plans to do when his term expires at the end of 2017. The next election for governor is 2018, and Gov. Rick Snyder his term-limited.
“I truly don’t know if the mayor is going to run for governor, but if he decides to, he’s obviously not going to make an announcement until his term is about up. Otherwise it will be a big distraction for everyone.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.