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Perennial candidate Tom Barrow files petitions to join 2021 race for Detroit mayor


Detroit — Perennial mayoral candidate Tom Barrow has decided to join the 2021 race, saying "it's time for a real Detroiter."

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Tom Barrow announces his candidacy for Detroit Mayor
With a light snowfall coming down, Tom Barrow announces his candidacy for Detroit Mayor in Detroit, Michigan on April 20, 2021.
The Detroit News

Barrow, 71, filed petitions Tuesday morning with the city clerk's office on West Grand Boulevard. He said he'd been weighing a bid but ultimately decided to step forward after he felt he hadn't seen other challengers to incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan who could "bring the energy."

"I'm competent, I'm capable. I'm a Detroiter through-and-through," Barrow told The News. "Detroit is in my DNA. Detroit is a city I love and respect deeply. People know that I care, that I will look out for them and will protect them and not allow them to be misused." 

Barrow filed his petitions ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline to be on the August primary ballot. He intends to host a Tuesday afternoon campaign announcement at the site of the former Kirkwood Negro Hospital on E. Kirby, now the Hellenic Museum of Michigan, where he was born.

He joins former Detroit deputy mayor Anthony Adams as one of the only well-known contenders to submit signatures to take on Duggan, who filed his own petitions with the clerk's office at Detroit City Hall early Tuesday morning, according to his campaign. 

If he's certified, this will mark Barrow's second go-around with Duggan for the mayoral post and Barrow's fifth run for the office.

He formerly challenged Duggan in the 2013 race and raised issue with whether Duggan, who moved to Detroit from Livonia, had met residency requirements to appear on the Detroit ballot. A revised City Charter adopted by voters in 2012 called for a candidate to be a resident and a registered voter for one year "at the time of filling for office."

Duggan was forced to wage a write-in campaign after being deemed ineligible by a court. But he ultimately prevailed. Barrow unsuccessfully challenged the validity of some of the write-in submissions that resulted in Duggan being the top vote-getter in the August primary. 

Barrow has challenged several past mayors, including Dave Bing and the late Coleman A. Young, unsuccessfully running for the office in 1985, 1989 and 2009.

In the last election cycle, Barrow noted Tuesday, he "stood down" in favor of Coleman A. Young II, who challenged Duggan. In 2017, Duggan sailed to victory over Young, a former state senator, pulling in more than 70% of the vote. 

Barrow, a former practicing certified public accountant, has led the civic group Citizens for Detroit's Future and has been a watchdog and advocate for election reforms. 

Running under the campaign banner “RealDetroiter," Barrow said his platform will be centered around "local pride" in the city that he contends is recovering from a "contrived" bankruptcy, which he claims wrongfully impaired Detroit retiree pensions and resulted in the state's long-term lease of Belle Isle, a city jewel.

Barrow said, if elected, he'll evaluate options for restoring pensions, putting an end to water shutoffs and creating a water affordability program for vulnerable residents.

He also wants to appoint a panel "to review options and the propriety of the city's bankruptcy," issue a moratorium on city tax auctions and dismantle Detroit's Land Bank Authority. 

Barrow on Tuesday accused Duggan of not living in the Manoogian Mansion. But Duggan's former chief of staff and reelection campaign manager Alexis Wiley, said Tuesday Duggan has and does live there.

In a statement to The News, Wiley said the claims are the "kind of lying and hate-spewing we've come to know from Tom Barrow and why he got less than 4% of the vote the last time he ran against the mayor in 2013."

Barrow, following the August primary in 2013, argued ballots had been fraudulent. His claims led to an analysis by a handwriting expert tied to Duggan's write-in bid. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers shot down Barrow's claims. 

He also sought a recount of the Nov. 3, 2009, election after losing to Bing by more than 19,000 votes. Barrow, who challenged the matter in court, argued that Bing wrongfully held the title since ballots "deemed not to be recountable or tainted were more than six times than that necessary to alter the outcome" of the election.

Wayne County's Board of Canvassers ruled at the time that none of the 41,485 absentee ballots would be recounted, and the board reverted to the original election results. About 8,000 ballots that were cast in person at precincts were spoiled because ballot box security seals couldn't be matched. Barrow said another 9,000 were also determined to be "spoiled."

Barrow's efforts to undo the 2009 election included requests for criminal investigations of ballot tampering that were rejected by then-Attorney General Mike Cox and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. The FBI also turned down a request to intervene.

Last August, 72% of Detroit's poll books were found to be out of balance, a condition that precluded them from being used if a recount from the 2020 primary were requested. The issues prompted the state to send in additional help ahead of the November general election.

Barrow said he believes stronger controls will enable a "straightforward and honest contest."

Others, including Detroit's former top lawyer, Sharon McPhail, have pulled petitions for the race. 

As of Monday, Adams and past mayoral candidates Curtis Greene and Myya Jones had filed petitions. Others to submit signatures include Arthur Tyus, Emanuel Shaw and Dallias Wilcoxon, according to elections office records. 

After the petitions are canvassed, a final list of certified candidates will be provided as soon as possible, or within seven to 10 days.

cferretti@detroitnews.com