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Detroit mayor collects more than $1 million in one night,

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  • James
    With a fund-raiser that reportedly produced more than $1 million in one night, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has served notice to would-be opponents of his
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2003
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      With a fund-raiser that reportedly produced more than $1 million in one night, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has served notice to would-be opponents of his re-election bid: He's serious about competing, and any challengers had better raise big money quickly. SPG Design Co. Chairman Howard Sims, a key backer of the mayor, said Wednesday's event brought in $1.2 million for Kilpatrick "from people who think the city is headed in the right direction." Sims alone raised $50,000 for Kilpatrick from the event. Political experts say the fund-raiser might have set a record for raising money in one night for a municipal leader in Metro Detroit, despite a string of hopefuls weighing a run after the series of controversies that has hit the Kilpatrick administration. The fund-raiser, which brought more than 800 business leaders, politicians and residents to Cobo Center's Riverview Ballroom, included a private $3,400-a-person reception and a $300- a-person party. "What the mayor has successfully done by raising this much money early on, is he's really locked in all of the large contributors who are going to give to a race, so potential opponents have nowhere to go unless they can self-fund," said East Lansing-based pollster Steve Mitchell, whose wife raised money for Kilpatrick's 2001 bid. "He has really put all his potential opponents between a dog and fire hydrant." State campaign finance laws restrict to $3,400 the amount one person can give during an election cycle. Because many people already have maxed out for the 2005 mayoral race by giving to Kilpatrick -- Sims didn't have an exact count -- opponents will have to look away from traditional donors for money. It also means those contributors who usually hedge their bets, as many did in the 2001 election, by giving to more than one candidate have put their financial backing behind Kilpatrick for this campaign season. "It's not just the dollars, but it's the dollars this far in advance, this huge," said Bill Ballenger, editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. "I guess my reading of it is that Kilpatrick is obviously taking nothing for granted. He doesn't know for sure who might oppose him. But that's what an opponent does -- he leaves nothing to chance." Money and name recognition are considered crucial to mounting successful political bids. For the 2001 race, Kilpatrick raised $2.8 million, and opponent Gil Hill raised $2.5 million. In his 1997 re-election bid, then-Mayor Dennis Archer amassed more than $2 million. His opponent, Ed Vaughn, collected under $35,000. Archer won with 82 percent of the vote. Still, there have been enough struggles during the Kilpatrick administration to fuel talk of others running against him in 2005. The problems include complaints from the business community about missed appointments and phone calls by Kilpatrick, poor morale among city workers and a continuing Michigan State Police investigation of allegations of impropriety by the mayor's close advisers. Although she has made no formal announcement, Detroit City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail has privately told fellow politicians, business leaders and supporters that she will run for mayor in 2005. McPhail, who lost to Archer in 1993, has increased her profile with her election to City Council. She has also boosted her name recognition over the years by running, albeit unsuccessfully, for Wayne County prosecutor and executive. "People call me all the time," McPhail said of her chances for mounting a bid. "Frankly, there isn't a day that doesn't go by. I'm having those conversations as people bring them to me." Although she said she has not formed a committee and is focused on her work with the council, she said that a number of candidates will make the 2005 mayoral election competitive. "Money is certainly important in politics. But a lot of people have money," McPhail said. "I raised $1.2 million in the last race for mayor." Others mentioned as possible candidates include former Police Chief Benny Napoleon, Detroit City Council President Pro-tem Kenneth Cockrel Jr., former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix and Bella Marshall, who is chief financial officer for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. "I have not ruled it out, nor have I necessarily ruled it in," Cockrel said. "Let's just say I do have a political career path, and council is not the last step on that." Napoleon has said he is happy working in the private sector. Marshall and Hendrix did not return calls Monday seeking comment. You can reach Darci McConnell at (313) 222-2073 or dmcconnell@....
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