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Dave Bing has clearer path to full term as Detroit mayor

By Ric Bohy

May 15, 2009 at 9:42am

Detroit’s former interim mayor, Kenneth Cockrel Jr., decided this week to run for a new term on the City Council instead of trying to regain the top job, leaving newly elected Mayor Dave Bing without serious opposition for his own full four-year term.

That takes some explaining, and the fact that the descriptor “former interim mayor” comes into play is an indication of the current state of Detroit politics.

When Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned earlier this year to begin a jail sentence in a sex-and-politics scandal, Cockrel – then City Council president – assumed the office. But the vagaries of Detroit’s City Charter required a special election this month to choose someone to complete Kilpatrick’s term through the end of the year.

In the final counting, pro basketball Hall-of-Famer and successful entrepreneur Bing edged out Cockrel for the foreshortened term. Cockrel returned to City Council and Bing was faced with trying to fix nearly everything that can be broken in a city and its government while facing a primary in August, and a November general election, to retain the seat for a full term.

Bing has said that if he does “what should be done and what I think I’m capable of doing, that’ll take care of itself.” Cockrel’s decision not to challenge him leaves Bing without a serious challenger and big odds of staying in the mayor’s office unless he fails to make a good start on his reform agenda.

Detroit voters will also face a ballot of 207 candidates for the nine-seat City Council, including eight incumbents, in what is thought to be the biggest complement of council hopefuls in the city’s history.

If, as local political analysts and kibitzers have it, Bing’s election was a call for change, then the council incumbents are in for a bloody fight. Detroit’s legislative body has become far better known for political infighting, race-baiting, outrageous public behavior and simple incompetence than for enlightened discourse and action. Some council members’ names have surfaced in an ongoing FBI corruption investigation.

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