November 9, 2005

Detroit’s youngest mayor claims re-election win

DETROIT (Reuters) - Kwame Kilpatrick, the youngest mayor in
Detroit's history, claimed victory in his re-election bid on
Wednesday, saying he had shrugged off underdog status to retain
the financially struggling city's top job for four more years.

In a pre-dawn speech to supporters at a downtown hotel,
Kilpatrick, 35, said results from Tuesday's election -- still
incomplete due to unexplained delays -- gave him an upset
victory over Freman Hendrix, a 55-year-old fellow Democrat and
former deputy mayor who had promised to restore fiscal
responsibility to Detroit.

Hendrix had also declared victory in the race hours
earlier. Projections from an analyst on a local CBS news radio
affiliate had steadily shown Hendrix lagging a few percentage
points behind the incumbent, however.

Kilpatrick's victory claim may be marred by legal
challenges, following reports the FBI was probing an alleged
mishandling of tens of thousands of crucial absentee ballots
distributed by local officials in the days and weeks ahead of
Tuesday's vote.

Hurt by the decline of the domestic auto industry, and by a
shrinking tax base from a population that now stands at less
than half its peak in the 1950s, Detroit faces possible
insolvency and is ranked by the U.S. Census Bureau as America's
poorest big city.

A flamboyant figure known as the "hip-hop mayor,"
Kilpatrick has been dogged by controversy since his earliest
days in office. He has faced allegations of cronyism and
widely-publicized claims that he ran up thousands of dollars in
questionable charges on the cash-strapped city's credit card.

But he drew on charisma, and what he credited as "people
power" in his speech early on Wednesday, to overcome a nearly
20-point deficit in polls as recently as September. Even some
of Kilpatrick's leading detractors acknowledge the political
skills of the burly former college football star, who is known
for his outsized three-piece suits and trademark diamond-stud

Among other accomplishments, Kilpatrick is the first black
leader of the Democratic party in the Michigan legislature.