Detroit Council President Mary Sheffield launches mayoral bid

Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield isn’t waiting for Mike Duggan to make up his mind. She created a mayoral campaign and has a Wisconsin political consultant on board.

Mike Duggan said he won’t decide until next year whether he will seek a fourth term as Detroit’s mayor, but City Council President Mary Sheffield isn’t waiting on Duggan to make up his mind.

Sheffield is quietly laying the groundwork to run for mayor, filing paperwork Aug. 17 establishing the “Mary Sheffield for Detroit’s Future” committee. Under Michigan law, a candidate for elected office must create a candidate committee shortly after beginning to lay the groundwork for a campaign. That process can include hiring consultants or raising money. By forming her candidate committee this month, Sheffield is getting an unusually early start on the election, which won’t be held until 2025 when the mayor’s and city council members’ collective terms expire.

“Over the last 10 years, I have devoted my life in service to the residents of Detroit. While I have accomplished so much during my tenure on Council, I am constantly trying to find ways to do even more knowing the needs of Detroiters are still great. In that vein, I have filed a statement of organization for the office of Mayor solely for the purpose of exploring a potential run and because I have been advised it is the only legal method of doing so under the confines of the Michigan Campaign Finance statute,” Sheffield said in a text message to the Free Press, adding that she remains committed to her duties as council president and has “NOT made a decision” on her future career.

She also said: “I have elicited the support of a national campaign expert with ties to Detroit and advisor to the Obama and Beto campaigns, Nick Rathod, to help me navigate this initial exploratory process,” Sheffield said.

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Duggan spokesman John Roach said of Sheffield’s potential candidacy: “I’m sure this will just be the first of many. Mayor of Detroit is a really good job and will attract a lot of candidates.”

Sheffield was first elected to the Detroit City Council from the city’s near east side in 2013. She won a close race, but hasn’t faced serious opposition since. Her strength in District 5 — which includes areas like Midtown, Downtown, Indian Village, Boston Edison and New Center, among other notable neighborhoods — is so great that no one ran against her in 2021, allowing her to campaign for other city council candidates. The successful candidates she supported help elect her city council president in 2022.

Sheffield, who has cultivated a populist image since joining the council, said her priorities as council president would include reparations for Black Detroiters victimized by urban renewal and finding hundreds of millions of dollars for Detroiters who paid more property taxes than they should have. The council created a Reparations Task Force, but there has been little news about where the money for the overtaxed Detroiters would come from.

Sheffield was the only city council member to vote against granting more than $800 million in tax credits for Olympia Development’s oft-delayed District Detroit project.

The council president also supported an ordinance to provide free legal aid to low-income Detroiters facing evictions.

In a move that is unusual in Detroit politics, the mailing address for Sheffield’s mayoral campaign committee is in Middleton, Wisconsin. Her treasurer is based in Detroit, but her designated record keeper is Peter Bailon of UpRising Strategies in Mazomanie, Wisconsin. Bailon did not return a voicemail message. UpRising’s website said its partners have more than 30 years experience working at state and local levels.

“We have in depth understanding of the nuances of state and local work through time in Governors’ offices, and working with legislators, working for Presidents and presidential campaigns, as well as Government agencies. Our team also has a proven history of building and growing successful local and national organizations from the ground up,” the website says. 

The website does not list any of UpRising’s clients.

Duggan told the Free Press earlier this month: “So next year, I’m going to decide whether to run for reelection as mayor. That’s the first decision and then after that, I’ll decide what else I’m doing. But the decision on mayor has to come first.”

M.L. Elrick is a Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and host of the ML’s Soul of Detroit podcast. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @elrick, Facebook at ML Elrick and Instagram at ml_elrick. Support investigative reporting and use this link to invite a friend to become a subscriber. 

Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact her: or 313-635-3491. Follow her on Twitter: @DanaAfana.

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