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The Race for Detroit Mayor Features One Union-Friendly Candidate: Benny Napoleon

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon has officially entered the Detroit Mayoral race promising “no more business as usual.”

Napoleon is the Democratic front runner in the race opposite former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan. Nearly 1,000 people attended his campaign announcement on Monday at the Crystal Ballroom of the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Napoleon has earned an early endorsement from United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King who praised him for his support of the failed Proposition 2 that would have amended the state’s constitution to make collective bargaining a protected right.

In his announcement, the lifelong Detroit resident took a swipe at his opponent who moved away from Detroit during its toughest time:

“Like every Detroiter I’ve had abandoned houses next door to me – no street lights – slow police response – these are not things a campaign staff have to explain to me. Detroit is not my hobby – it is my home.”

The race for Mayor is particularly important because of the shadow cast by the city’s recently appointed Emergency Financial Manager, Kevyn Orr. Orr is slated to hold the position for the next 18 months. Napoleon suggested the unscrupulous EFM law as a reason he is running for Mayor:

Basic city services are inadequate, crime has placed our families on edge,” said Napoleon. “And just yesterday, a state appointed emergency manager moved into city hall – to assume control of a city government reportedly on the brink of collapse.”

“Detroit this is unacceptable,” he said to a round of applause.

In his speech he said that despite his resistance to the position of Emergency Manager he could work with Orr if elected mayor.

“It has never been about power, it has always been about change. There is life after an emergency manager and we will become the city that we want to be working together.”

Another promising aspect of Napoleon’s gameplan is his commitment to job training opportunities for young workers. He is looking to partner with unions to further this goal. UAW President King says that other members of the labor community share similar views with Napoleon:

Every time we’ve needed Benny Napoleon’s support, he has stood with working people,” King said. “He stood with working families He stood with unions and union leaders.”

“When we were in a fight on Proposal 2, some political leaders didn’t want to take a position. But Benny Napoleon stood from the beginning with us. Benny Napoleon did an ad on TV for us. Benny Napoleon stood up for workers rights to collective bargaining and we’re not going to forget that.”

The addition of Napoleon to the mayoral race sets up a stark juxtaposition among the early favorites. Current Mayor Dave Bing is eligible to run for reelection but has yet to make his intentions clear. The former businessman and NBA Hall of Famer is now 69 years old and has not been terribly effective. In spite of his business accomplishments, Mike Duggan is viewed as an outsider and has already been labeled the “corporate favorite.”

Napoleon’s lifetime of accomplishment in Detroit provides him with a large base of early supporters. One of those people is Sheila Preyer:

“He has a long history in Detroit, he’s been around a long time, so I want to see what can he do different, new, that can hopefully move this city forward, because we are truly moving backward,”

Procedurally, the Mayor’s election in Detroit is handled in two phases. First, a primary will be held on August 6th in which candidates will be put on the ballot with their political party identified. The top two candidates, no matter the party, will then advance to the general election in November. Early polling shows Duggan and Napoleon up top with Duggan in the lead.


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