With Detroit’s unemployment hovering between 12.7% and 15% (or well more than twice the jobless rate in Michigan or nationwide) and city government increasingly operating in red ink, Motor City voters almost turned out Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
However, the nation’s youngest (35) big-city mayor finally claimed victory by a margin of 53% to 47% over Freman Hendrix, who had been chief of staff to former Mayor (1993-2001) Dennis Archer. Both Hendrix and Kilpatrick are African-American Democrats.
Along with his city’s moribund economy, Kilpatrick, son of Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D.-Mich.), was repeatedly hit by embarrassing reports in the Detroit Free Press about how he handled his own money. Among the things the mayor was forced to explain and apologize for were running up $210,000 in three years on his city MasterCard (including big tabs at a Washington, D.C., nightspot and a Las Vegas spa) and spending $144,000 from the city’s petty cash account on such items as Detroit Lions tickets and a skybox at a Rolling Stones concert.
In promising strong management of the city budget and lower taxes, the 55-year-old Hendrix also told voters: “I won’t embarrass you.”
One celebrated winner in the at-large races for City Council was Martha Reeves, best-known for such hits as “Dancin’ in the Streets” while the lead singer for Martha and the Vandellas. Citing cases in which her businesses were struck by Detroit’s crime wave, the Gold Record-winning songbird ran on a tough anti-crime platform.