5 key things Detroit voters will decide this Election Day

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Two-term Mayor Mike Duggan and challenger Anthony Adams face off today and city voters have been asked to decide on new councilmembers and ballot proposals among other possible changes.

It’s Election Day. Polls are open and absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. today.

It’s expected that two-thirds of voters will have already cast their ballots through early voting, according to the city clerk. The City may report final election results late Tuesday evening, but it is likely that various media outlets will call races earlier. The city clerk will post official results here.  

Here are five key things Detroit voters will decide:

Duggan dominance?

Two-term Mayor Mike Duggan faces challenger Anthony Adams. It will be a huge upset if Adams wins. In the Aug. 3 primary, Duggan had 72.4% of the vote, and Adams had 9.9%.  Duggan has had a mammoth edge in campaign money, thanks to strong corporate backing, as well as solid neighborhood support. 


Adams is an attorney with decades of City government experience, including serving as deputy mayor under Kwame Kilpatrick. 

There is a constant debate in the city about “two Detroits,” that the policies of the last decade benefited only a few at the expense of many. That theme plays out in the race for mayor and other contests. 

Duggan is running on a mix of his track record of restoring basic City services, such as improving response times of police and EMS, and tearing down 18,000 blighted properties. He vows even more help for neighborhood improvements, bolstering small businesses and job training.

Adams points to the many issues that he contends Dugggan has ignored, including compensation for the tens of thousands overcharged on their property taxes, a permanent ban of water shutoffs at residences, the months-long closure of libraries because of COVID, the lack of police reform and the home repair “crisis.” 

Scandal-plagued City Council races 

Each week at City Council meetings, several Detroiters speak during public comments and demand that Councilmembers Janee Ayers and Scott Benson resign. On Aug. 25, their homes and offices were raided by FBI agents, upending their sure-fire paths to victories in the election. The homes of Benson’s chief of staff, Carol Banks, and Ayers’ chief of staff, Ricardo Silva, also were searched. None of the four has been charged with any crime.

Ayers, a citywide, at-large councilmember, and Benson, who represents District 3, have not spoken much publicly about the raids. The two are the latest councilmembers who are under legal scrutiny. Councilmembers Gabe Leland and Andre Spivey were forced to resign after admitting to taking bribes. 

The nine-member council will have at least four new members between the two resignations and two incumbents — Brenda Jones and Raquel Castañeda-López  —  declining to seek re-election. 

Ayers was the top vote-getter in a crowded primary for the at-large seats. Ayers faces Coleman Young II, Mary Waters and Nicole Small. The top two vote-getters win. 

Benson had a guaranteed path to another four years because he was running unopposed. After the FBI raids, two write-in candidates, Adam Mundy and Steven Shelton, are hoping for an upset. 

Elsewhere, District 1 incumbent James Tate faces Krystal Larsosa. In District 2, incumbent Councilmember Roy McCalister Jr. squares off against Angela Calloway. M.L. Elrick and Latisha Johnson are running for Spivey’s open seat in District 4. District 5’s Mary Sheffield, who is also council president pro tem, is running unopposed. In District 6, Hector Santiago and Gabriela Santiago-Romero are running to fill the position held by Castañeda-López. The open District 7 seat has Fred Durhal facing Regina Ross.

Major proposals 

Proposal R would create a new City task force to study reparations that would “make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that addressed historical discrimination against the Black community here in Detroit,” according to the resolution. 

Proposal E asks voters to decriminalize the possession of entheogenic plants, such as psilocybin mushrooms, more commonly known as “magic mushrooms.” The proposal would lessen police efforts to crack down on the use of the plants and limit entheogenic plant-related arrests. The sale of the plants, or its product, would still be illegal, however.

Proposal S seeks to change the City Charter language that bans appropriations through an initiative process. Should voters approve the change, Detroiters would have more control over how funds are spent, though opponents say that could slow the appropriation process.

City clerk 

Longtime City Clerk Janice Winfrey is taking on young progessive Denzel McCampbell, who is currently on leave from serving as communications director for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. 

Among the clerk’s duties are administering elections, voter outreach and providing access to City Council records. Winfrey has faced regular criticism in the past for a lack of transparency and refused to debate McCampbell. He has called for transforming voter outreach and improving voter turnout. Among McCampbell’s planned initiatives are creating a “Civic Education Corps” that would try to keep residents more engaged and informed on how government policies impact their lives. He also calls for the office to take a more vocal stand, and build coalitions, against Republican efforts aimed to restrict voting efforts by shortening early voting, eliminating automatic and same-day voter registration, reducing the use of ballot drop boxes, among other measures. Opponents argue the Republican efforts amount to voter suppression, particularly in Black and Latinx communities.

Winfrey contends her track record speaks to a commitment of improving voter accessibility with the expansion of early voting and drop off ballot boxes, among other initiatives. She also calls for more voter education efforts as well as more funding for her office. 

Police commissioners

The Board of Police Commissioners is intended to be the public’s watchdog over the Detroit Police Department. Meetings are often chaotic and many, including some board members, say the board is not doing a good job. The 11-member board is made up of seven elected representatives and four at-large positions. Seven district seats are up for election. 

District 1 – No candidates on ballot.

District 2 – Incumbent Linda D. Bernard faces Lavish T. Williams.

District 3 – Cedric Banks is running unopposed.

District 4 – Incumbent Willie E. Bell is running against Scotty Boman.

District 5 – Incumbent Willie E. Burton is running unopposed. 

District 6 – Incumbent Lisa R. Carter faces Landis L. Spencer.

District 7 – No candidates on ballot. 

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