DETROIT (AP) – Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and challenger Freman Hendrix brought their campaigns to services yesterday for the last time before tomorrow’s election, asking churchgoers to let the last four years help guide their choice for mayor.
Hendrix, who was deputy mayor under Kilpatrick’s predecessor, told the congregation at New St. Paul Baptist Church that he has the leadership and determination to deal with crime, poverty and other problems facing the nation’s 11th-largest city.
“Ask yourself – are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Hendrix said. “I think if you’re like most Detroiters you’ll say that we’re struggling. And I think we need to do better.”
At Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Kilpatrick focused on what he considers his first-term accomplishments, from making sure the grass is cut in parks and snow is plowed from streets to progress on redevelopment efforts.
“We made this city better,” Kilpatrick said. “Even in the midst of the worst economy we’ve seen in 25 years. – We’ve continued to move forward.”
Earlier in the service, as high winds buffeted the trees outside, the power cut out at the church. Kilpatrick spoke without a microphone to the packed church, which was dimly lit by sunlight shining through stained-glass windows. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was at Kilpatrick’s side, offering his support.
“Vote your hopes, not your fears,” Jackson said. “Re-elect your mayor.”
When voters elected Kilpatrick four years ago, at age 31, he became one of the city’s youngest mayors. But after finishing second in the August primary and trailing Hendrix in the polls, he is at risk of becoming the first Detroit mayor defeated in a re-election bid since 1961.
But Kilpatrick has gained ground on Hendrix as the election neared, according to a recent poll. That poll found 49 percent said they backed Hendrix, 39 percent said they backed Kilpatrick and 12 percent said they were undecided, compared with a 19-point gap between the two in September.
Yesterday, Kilpatrick, now 35, drew attention to his age during the stop at Hartford Memorial, which was one of six church stops planned for the day. He said his youthfulness is an asset in a city that has suffered the effects of the declining manufacturing industry and is looking for a new way.
“I’m asking you to trust what you raised,” Kilpatrick said. “I’m asking you to give me another chance to move this city forward.”
Hendrix, 55, had seven church stops on his agenda for the day, plus other events including meeting with residents at their homes. He said the final push is an extension of what he’s done in nearly two years of campaigning, although the pace has been stepped up with only two days before the election.