- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

DETROIT — Kwame Kilpatrick, this city’s young, earringed mayor, has survived accusations of malfeasance since he took office in 2002 and faces plenty of competition in his re-election bid this fall.

Mr. Kilpatrick’s main rivals are former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix and City Council member Sharon McPhail, who has called the mayor a “thug.”

Mr. Kilpatrick “doesn’t lack charisma; he lacks credibility,” Ms. McPhail told the Detroit News last week. Polls show Ms. McPhail with enough support to give Mr. Kilpatrick a strong fight in the nonpartisan election.

“This is Kwame’s race to lose,” said Sam Riddle, a longtime political consultant in Detroit, adding that he would cast a vote for Mr. Kilpatrick today.

“But he has given fodder to the media sharks and has gotten to the tipping point where he is not going to get the benefit of the doubt any more,” Mr. Riddle said. “His accomplishments have been obscured by the miscues of his administration. And no one has had to make up the issues that are being reported.”

Mr. Kilpatrick has proposed balancing the budget by laying off almost 700 city employees, but then leased a $25,000 Lincoln Navigator on the city’s dime. He also has been criticized for having a security detail that cost the city $2 million in overtime while mayors of larger cities — including Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles — made do with less.

The security detail still has 21 positions and a budget of $2.4 million. The Navigator was reassigned to the police department.

The Next Vision Foundation, a tax-exempt group that the 34-year-old mayor’s family founded in 2002, used more than half of its money on salaries for several family members, including the mayor’s sister, his wife and the wife of one of his best friends, according to tax records.

In his state of the city address last Tuesday, Mr. Kilpatrick said: “I realize at times I have been an imperfect servant.”

“It is important to this city’s future that you have confidence in your mayor in these difficult times. I am determined to serve you in a manner that earns that confidence,” he said.

Mr. Kilpatrick, who declined an interview request from The Washington Times, has strived to clean up the city’s reputation for high crime rates. He retooled the city’s police department, and last year Detroit had 73,000 serious crimes, the lowest since 1963.

“There is no doubt he could have done some things differently in his first term,” said Horace Sheffield III, who is part of the mayor’s re-election executive committee. “He has been a public figure all of his life, but he was not acutely aware of how magnified his life as mayor would become.”

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