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Detroit's Kilpatrick Wins Second Mayoral Term


One big surprise on Election Night came in Detroit. The incumbent mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, pulled away at the end to win a second term over the challenger, Freman Hendrix. Mayor Kilpatrick won another term, despite being accused of using city finances to enrich himself and his family, and he managed to overcome a man who had actually beaten him in the primary over the summer. Joining us to talk about the election is Detroit Public Radio's Quinn Klinefelter.

And, Quinn, first off, we should just explain the rules here. This is a non-partisan election?


It is. For the most part, Detroit is a Democratic bastion, and so it would be fairly fruitless for a Republican to run in this particular area, and because of that, very few ever have. So it comes down to a race between all Democrats, and in this case, there were a number of challengers, but it came down to four top challengers who went through a primary and were winnowed down to the top two that faced off in the Election Day.

INSKEEP: And how close was it last night?

KLINEFELTER: About 10,000 votes separated them about--from 250,000 or so that were cast. Very close, indeed. Fifty-three percent to 47 percent they were reporting at the moment, with 99 precincts reporting, almost all. A very close race and one that actually had seemed to be tilting the other way until almost this last week.

INSKEEP: Well, now how did Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick keep his job?

KLINEFELTER: It seems that he has a great appeal among the youthful residents of Detroit. He was the youngest man ever elected to office in Detroit as mayor. He was 30 four years ago when he won his first term. And there seemed to be a real sense that he had energy and youthful activism and that he could actually make a difference. And so people seem to have responded to that. Hendrix ran against that, in many ways, saying that he was the candidate that would be more sensible and more mature and not, as you say, getting caught in some of these well-publicized gaffs that have plagued Kilpatrick throughout his term to date.

INSKEEP: Apparently, there was some question over who was going to win the dead people's vote.

KLINEFELTER: There was. In fact, many of the absentee ballots have been put under lock and key by state officials and federal officials, because the city clerk had started a practice of hand-delivering absentee ballots to the elderly and the disabled. What they found was when these ballots went there, that these were being given to people that had dementia and couldn't even remember if they had voted in the August primary or even name the mayor of Detroit, but yet, they had filled out their absentee ballot completely, with the help of elections workers. And so there was quite a controversy over that, and the federal government stepped in, and there are about 2,000 or so ballots that have been set aside at this time and are being preserved by the government because they want to examine them in the future, and it's possible that there could be an election challenge later on.

INSKEEP: Quinn, I have to ask, Mayor Kilpatrick was famous for wearing an earring. He took it out during the campaign. Did that help him?

KLINEFELTER: It seems to. He had wanted to try to push himself as the child of all Detroit, and the elderly people, particularly women over age 60, had pushed him over the top in his first bid for office. So the fact that Hendrix seemed to be gathering those into his camp was something that the mayor was obviously not happy with. And this was kind of a concrete example. He dramatically removed the earring and said he would no longer wear it. It didn't give the image that he wanted. That's a bit ironic, because the image that he had been portraying to date was that of the, quote, "hip-hop mayor," and it seems that that resonated with many youthful people and may have actually propelled him into office, even sans earring.

INSKEEP: Another election on big issues. Quinn Klinefelter of Detroit Public Radio. Quinn, thanks very much.

KLINEFELTER: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Quinn Klinefelter
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