November 9, 2005

Detroit mayor appeals for unity after upset win

DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick called
the voters of his downtrodden city "brillant" on Wednesday, and
appealed for unity, after winning an upset victory in his bid
for another four years in office.

At a morning news conference Kilpatrick, 35, also dismissed
rampant speculation that Detroit, which the U.S. Census Bureau
ranks as America's poorest big city, is headed for insolvency.

"Detroit voters are very smart, as a matter of fact they're
brillant," Kilpatrick told reporters.

The youngest mayor in Detroit history was first elected in
November 2001. He spoke shortly after Freman Hendrix, a career
civil servant and fellow Democrat, conceded defeat in Tuesday's
race, which was not decided until early Wednesday morning.

The results, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, gave
Kilpatrick a commanding 53 percent of the vote compared with 47
percent for Hendrix. That marked a major comeback for
Kilpatrick, who had trailed in polls by nearly 20 percent as
recently as September.

The six-foot-four Kilpatrick, a stocky former college
football star often referred to as the hip-hop mayor, has been
dogged by controversy since his earliest days in office.

He has faced allegations of cronyism, charges that he has
failed to rein in excessive costs for a large and sometimes
abusive personal security force, and widely publicized claims
that he ran up thousands of dollars in questionable charges on
the cash-strapped city's accounts.

The incumbent acknowledged past blunders in his remarks to
reporters on Wednesday morning but stressed it was time "to
immediately turn the page" and get on with the business of a
city that faces many challenges.

Hurt by the decline of the domestic auto industry and by a
shrinking tax base in this predominantly black city, where the
population now stands at less than half its peak in the 1950s,
Detroit is struggling.

Hurdles ahead include closing what Kilpatrick said was a
$139 million deficit in Detroit's $1.4 billion general fund
budget. He vowed to shore up the city's finances, and poured
cold water on the idea that receivership, or state oversight of
the city's finances, was somehow inevitable.

"The notion of receivership grew like wildfire throughout
the course of this campaign and I want to halt that," he said.

Though upbeat, Kilpatrick also appeared to signal more hard
times ahead, and more cuts in city workers and services, with
his call for Detroiters to come together after a particluarly
divisive campaign.

"I think this is our moment when unity should be the thing
that we all strive for," Kilpatrick said.

His victory may yet be tainted by legal challenges
following reports the FBI was probing the alleged mishandling
of absentee ballots distributed by local officials in the days
and weeks ahead of Tuesday's vote.

An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the investigation on Wednesday
but declined further comment.

Among other winners in Tuesday's elections, and in a
reminder of the Motor City's fading glory along with its status
as an industrial hub, Motown singer and legend Martha Reeves
was elected to the city council.