DETROIT (AP) - Voters in financially strapped Detroit were deciding Tuesday which two of 15 candidates will advance to a May 5 runoff to replace the disgraced former mayor sent to jail last year.
Polls close at 8 p.m. and low turnout is expected in the special, nonpartisan election.
The winner of the May runoff will serve the remaining months of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's second term. Kilpatrick resigned in September as he pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the scandal, which involved his affair with a top aide.
The regularly scheduled primary is in August with the runoff in November. The winner in that campaign will serve a regular four-year term starting next January. The four elections will cost some $6 million for the city, reeling under the auto industry's difficulties and other problems.
The major candidates in the nonpartisan primary Tuesday all are Democrats. They include the incumbent, Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr., who moved up from city council president when Kilpatrick stepped aside.
If he is one of the two top vote-getters and goes on to win in May, Cockrel remains mayor through the end of the year. If he loses Tuesday, Cockrel will return to the city council and Detroit will get its third mayor in less than 10 months after the May runoff.
The once-popular Kilpatrick was released from jail earlier this month after serving 99 days of a 120-day sentence. He pleaded guilty in September to obstruction of justice and no contest to assault. He admitted he lied during a civil trial to cover up an affair with his chief of staff, with whom he exchanged sexually explicit text messages.
Despite Cockrel's incumbency, no candidate has dominated endorsements, and some expect only 11 to 15 percent of Detroit's 626,000 registered voters will cast ballots Tuesday.
"It's really about restoring confidence. People have very strong feelings about the previous administration," University of Detroit Mercy political science professor Victoria Mantzopoulos said.
A poll of 400 likely voters earlier this month for WXYZ-TV and The Detroit News showed 27 percent each for Cockrel and businessman Dave Bing and 21 percent for former deputy mayor Freman Hendrix.
Cockrel was endorsed by a number of unions. But Hendrix was endorsed by former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, while Bing was endorsed by The Detroit News. Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans was endorsed by the Detroit Free Press.
The Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit & Vicinity endorsed both Cockrel and Evans. Some other pastors endorsed Hendrix.
The Michigan Chronicle, Detroit's largest black newspaper, decided not to endorse any candidate in Tuesday's primary.
"It was too close to call for us," publisher Sam Logan said. "All have good credentials and could run the city. We're concerned about who is going to be our mayor for four years. We're not just concerned about the next six or seven months."
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