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Election Roundup: Detroit Voters Elect 1st White Mayor in 4 Decades

By Corey Williams | 11/8/2013, 1:26 p.m.
When Mike Duggan recites the oath of office in January as Detroit’s first white mayor in four decades, he may ...
Minneapolis council-elect Abdi Warsame. Photo courtesy of AP.

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Detroit Mayor-elect Mike Duggan.

DETROIT (AP) - When Mike Duggan recites the oath of office in January as Detroit’s first white mayor in four decades, he may - in a way - give the eulogy to a period of racial divide that has defined much of the city’s past.

Unofficial general election results Tuesday night showed Duggan defeating Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon 55 percent to 45 percent with all of the city’s 614 precincts reporting.

But Detroit officially could be bankrupt by the time Duggan moves into City Hall. He also will be expected to have solutions for lowering one of the highest violent crime rates in the country - in a city that struggles to respond to 911 calls - and fixing Detroit’s many crumbling neighborhoods. Public transportation is in shambles, as are other city services.

Those are things Paulette Warren wants corrected and it doesn’t matter to her whether the person who does it is white, black, red or yellow.

"When you call 911 you want to know an ambulance is coming," said Warren, who is black and voted Tuesday for Duggan. "It’s all about who can do the job. It’s not about color."

Race is as much a part of Detroit, its politics, citizenry and relationship with suburban neighbors as assembly lines and the cars that rolled across them.

In the 1950s, about 1.8 million people lived in Detroit, but the lure of new homes in fresh suburbs started an exodus from the urban core. A deadly race riot in 1967 saw parts of the city burn over several days and hastened white flight. And when a brash, black labor leader named Coleman A. Young was elected mayor in 1973, Detroit’s growing black populace began to flex its political muscle.

But soon, the same suburbs that earlier welcomed white families became too attractive for the city’s black middle class to ignore. Thousands of blacks also left Detroit for safer neighborhoods and better schools, leaving parts of the city virtually empty. They also took their money and much of the city’s tax base.

Detroit’s population now is around 700,000 and expected to continue sliding.

State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr says Detroit’s debt is at least $18 billion. He has stopped making millions of dollars in bond debt payment and is trying to work out deals with some creditors while awaiting a federal judge’s ruling on whether the city will be the largest in the country to be declared bankrupt.

Detroit is more than 80 percent black.

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NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray.

Democrat Bill de Blasio elected mayor of New York

NEW YORK (AP) _ New York City’s mayor-elect Bill de Blasio seeks to push ahead with an ambitious liberal agenda aimed at easing the economic inequality that he hammered in his "tale of two cities" campaign, which propelled him to a landslide victory that signaled a break with the 12-year era of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Voters were drawn to the contrast that the Democratic de Blasio made with Bloomberg, the outgoing mayor whose policies helped make New York one of the nation’s safest and most prosperous big cities but also one that has become increasingly stratified between the very rich and the working class.