- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

DETROIT (AP) — Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick overcame a scandal-plagued first term to fend off a challenge from a career bureaucrat Tuesday as the FBI announced an investigation into the handling of absentee ballots, including claims of ballots cast in the names of dead people.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting yesterday, Mr. Kilpatrick, 35, had 117,354 votes, or 53 percent, and Freman Hendrix, a 55-year-old former deputy mayor under Mr. Kilpatrick’s predecessor, had 103,446 votes, or 47 percent.

Mr. Kilpatrick, a lawyer and son of a congresswoman, touted improved city services and revitalization in his campaign to overcome his 10-point loss to Mr. Hendrix in the nonpartisan primary in August.

Detroit, the nation’s 11th-largest city, is struggling with poverty, decades of population decline and a multimillion-dollar budget deficit that threatens to put it in financial receivership.

Mr. Hendrix focused on the financial troubles, blaming them largely on his flashier opponent who had been dubbed the “hip-hop mayor.” He called Mr. Kilpatrick about 3 a.m. to offer his congratulations.

“Although we have lost an election, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said yesterday. “Detroiters just made a decision that they wanted to give Mayor Kilpatrick another chance, and I respect them for that.”

The mayor asked voters’ forgiveness after questions surfaced about his spending, including the use of city credit cards for expensive out-of-town travel and a city lease of a luxury sport utility vehicle for his family. He stopped wearing his trademark diamond earring as he tried to shed the “hip-hop mayor” label and implied that the press was out to get him.

While voters were still casting ballots Tuesday, the U.S. attorney’s office on behalf of the FBI requested that the city preserve about 46,700 absentee ballots cast in the mayor’s race, along with applications and envelopes for the ballots, as part of a probe into potential vote irregularities.

The accusations started with a City Council candidate who lost in the primary and a Detroit News investigation that found some absentee voters had listed addresses of abandoned lots. Among the other claims: The names of dead people were used to cast absentee ballots; ballots were sent improperly; and city staff improperly assisted people incapable of voting.

Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Mary Beth Kelly, who granted the request to preserve absentee ballots, ruled last week that City Clerk Jackie Currie had been breaking state law in how she handles such ballots. She ordered the secretary of state and the Wayne County clerk to oversee absentee ballots.

Judge Kelly also has found Mrs. Currie in contempt for mailing 132,000 absentee ballot applications to people who didn’t request them, in defiance of a court order.

Mrs. Currie’s attorney, Steven W. Reifman, said the order to preserve ballots was an unnecessary intrusion on the clerk’s power.

Mr. Hendrix said he thinks the timing of the Nov. 2 funeral of civil rights icon Rosa Parks — which brought national attention to Mr. Kilpatrick — affected the race.

“I think that it came at an important juncture in this campaign,” Mr. Hendrix said.

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