Detroit Mention in GOP Ad Sparks Charges of Racism

In a new ad, Michigan's Republican Party accuses Detroit's mayor of trying to exchange votes for campaign favors from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer Granholm.

The ad has led to charges of racism from Democrats, who say Republicans are trying to inflame tensions between Detroit, which is 82 percent black, and the rest of the state.

The ad, which began airing Tuesday night, focuses on a memo Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick wrote in August that was leaked to the media this week.

In return for his help getting Detroit votes, Kilpatrick, who is black, said Granholm should hire Detroiters to head powerful state departments and ensure that new state buildings are built in the city. He also wants 20 percent of Granholm's appointees to be black.

"The past policy of marginalizing Detroit has to stop,'' Kilpatrick wrote in the memo, which he says was a draft and was never sent to Granholm.

The GOP ad shows photos of Kilpatrick and Granholm, who is white, side-by-side and says Granholm wants to give Detroit "a blank check.''

Republicans say they're attacking cronyism in the Democratic Party. But Democrats say the GOP is playing the race card.

"I believe it is intentional racism,'' Detroit political analyst Mario Morrow said Wednesday. "It may be naive on their part to think it's not. But when you take a picture of the mayor and blast it all over the state, asking for guarantees for black folks and Detroiters, it's all race.''

When Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Posthumus released the memo Monday after it was leaked from Kilpatrick's office, race wasn't mentioned. Posthumus said the memo was indicative of long-standing corruption in Wayne County, where Detroit is located.

Granholm was Wayne County's top lawyer before being elected attorney general in 1998. She says she never received the memo, and that she will not let any mayor dictate her appointments.

GOP spokesman Jason Brewer blamed Democrats for bringing up the issue of race.

"They're just simply trying to cloud the issue. The issue is that Jennifer Granholm is in the back pocket of Detroit and the Wayne County political machine,'' Brewer said. "There are African-Americans and other minorities who live all over the state, not just in Detroit. This wasn't about them.''

Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, who is no relation to Jason Brewer, said the ad's message is clear.

"I think Detroit is still used by Republicans as a code for race. I think it's unfortunate, but that's what they're doing,'' he said.

He said the ad is a sign of desperation from Posthumus. In a poll released Wednesday by Marketing Resource Group of Lansing, Granholm led Posthumus 47 percent to 36 percent, with 17 percent undecided. The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Thursday through Tuesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Morrow said the GOP's ad could be effective outside Detroit. A recent survey by the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University indicated little sympathy for the city. More than 60 percent of Democratic and Republican voters who aren't residents of Detroit said the city should fix its own problems.

But Morrow said it's more likely that the ads will motivate Detroit voters, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, to go to the polls.

"People in Detroit are saying, `That's a good thing for Mr. Mayor to do,''' Morrow said. "The people in the city don't have a problem with it.''