How We Helped Mike Duggan Become Mayor of Detroit as a Write In Candidate 


The Challenge

Mike Duggan was a businessman running for Mayor of Detroit as a write in candidate. A residency technicality kept his name off the Democratic primary ballot. Mike was born and raised in Detroit, but temporarily moved to a suburb until 2012. To ensure all papers were in order, Mike turned in his petition to qualify for the Mayor’s race two weeks early. Ironically, submitting the papers then raised a technical question about his length of residency. 

The Duggan campaign needed to first launch a full campaign to introduce voters to Duggan’s platform and persuade them to support him. They then had to add an educational component to instruct voters on how to properly cast a write-in ballot for Mike Duggan. The election officials interpreted the law such that voters needed to fill in the circle next to the blank line AND write in Mike Duggan.

Our Approach

We started with live calls to likely voters with persuasion messaging for Duggan. Mike had a stellar record improving public transportation in Detroit, eliminating deficits despite continued budget cuts and preserving hundreds of jobs at Detroit Medical Center while he was CEO. He was the right candidate for a city going through bankruptcy and dealing with an emergency manager from the Governor’s office.  Once we identified supporters during the call we gave them specific, step-by-step instructions on how they could ensure their ballots cast for Duggan were counted – by filling in the circle AND writing in the correct spelling for Duggan.

We gave those who were undecided a follow-up message about his elimination of deficits in public transportation and ability to avoid layoffs at Detroit Medical Center. A later calling program followed the field team neighborhood by neighborhood with appeals to undecided voters to support Mike for Mayor. We offered a new message about Mike’s successes in both business and government positions.

Once we captured supporters from our live calls and the campaign’s field efforts, we reached out to them to prepare for Election Day. There was no early vote period, so everything depended on our friendly, interactive GOTV calls that walked supporters through the Election Day process. The GOTV calls AGAIN outlined the particular process in which a voter would need to vote for Duggan – filling in the circle AND writing in his name on the ballot.   

The Results

Mike Duggan carried the primary vote with 43% of the vote. The second place candidate garnered only 30%. Mike went on to win the General Election in November (with his name on the ballot), with 55% of the vote. 

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