Detroit's Primary Is a Referendum on Progress Since Bankruptcy

By Shayndi Raice Features Dow Jones Newswires

Detroit is gearing up for a nonpartisan mayoral primary Tuesday that will signal whether the progress the city made under Mayor Mike Duggan is enough to propel him to a second term in November.

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Since filing the country's largest municipal bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit has seen its downtown revitalized with a luxury apartment boom, trendy restaurants and an influx of young residents. Basic services like streetlights, public transportation and police response times have improved.

But the mayor's top challenger, Coleman Young II, has argued that the revitalization has come at the expense of lower-income neighborhoods. Mr. Young, the son of Detroit's first black mayor, Coleman Young, has staked his campaign on the idea that poorer, black communities are being left behind.

"What is the purpose of creating jobs downtown if we don't provide jobs to the residents who need it?" Mr. Young asked when announcing his candidacy in February.

"It's two Detroits," said Mr. Young's spokesman, Adolph Mongo. "One rich and one poor. One black and one white." Over 80% of Detroit's residents are black. Mr. Duggan is the city's first white mayor in four decades.

Detroit's population continues to shrink, and although the city has attracted young residents downtown, rising housing prices have made parts of the city unaffordable to older ones.

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Violent crime dropped 13% in 2015 from a year earlier, but Detroit still has the second-highest violent crime rate for cities with over 100,000 residents, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics.

Sharon Banks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Duggan, said the mayor's first priority when taking office in 2014 was to stabilize the city's infrastructure. We're "not saying it's done by any stretch of the imagination," she said. "Stabilizing the structure of the city, boarding up abandoned homes, blight removal, those things were paramount starting his first term as mayor."

The top two vote-getters in Tuesday's primary will proceed to the general election Nov. 7.

Mr. Young's family history has helped propel the state senator representing Detroit to the front of Mayor Duggan's seven primary challengers.

Still, Mr. Duggan, a former businessman, has been leading in the polls by a wide margin. He also has seen strong support from black political organizations, including ones that supported Mr. Young's father.

A recent poll by Target Insyght found 64% of respondents said they were likely to vote for Mr. Duggan, while 30% planned to support Mr. Coleman. Other challengers garnered 1% of the vote, while 4% of those polled were undecided.

Write to Shayndi Raice at shayndi.raice@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 07, 2017 15:15 ET (19:15 GMT)