Joe Biden Taps Early Endorser’s Son for High Profile Campaign Role

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 16: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan stand on stage before the Vice President gives a speech about the future of the American auto industry at the 2014 North American International Auto Show January 16, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The 2014 …
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden is tapping the son of an early endorser to help run his general election campaign in Michigan.

Biden announced Tuesday that Ed Duggan, the son of Detroit Democrat Mayor Mike Duggan, would serve as his political director in the state. Recent polling shows Biden leading President Donald Trump in Michigan.

The hiring comes even though the younger Duggan, who serves as a senior adviser to the Michigan Department of Labor, has never worked on a presidential campaign in a senior capacity. Most of his political experience, in fact, appears confined to Detroit and heavily tied to his father’s influence.

In 2018, Duggan was tapped to run now-governor Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) campaign in Detroit proper. The appointment caught the attention of some because it came as a political action committee aligned with Duggan’s father was making heavy donations to Whitmer’s gubernatorial campaign.

Upon Whitmer’s victory, Duggan was tapped to serve as the external affairs director on the governor-elect’s transition team. That decision, which local media outlets claimed was a signal Whitmer had chosen a “gatekeeper,” appeared to some as “nothing but a reward” for the Duggan family’s support.

Adding to concerns is a similar past controversy involving Duggan and his father. In 2016, Duggan came under fire after he was hired to help run a Detroit youth jobs program with close ties to his father’s administration. Even though the position did not technically make him a city employee, good government groups objected because Duggan, then 27 years old, had no prior experience for the role, apart from having worked as a coordinator on his father’s 2013 mayoral campaign.

Similarly, Biden’s decision to name Duggan as his political director on Tuesday attracted scrutiny from local media, with Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press labeling it a “nepotism hire,” in light of the role the elder Duggan has played in the vice president’s campaign. Last year, the mayor made an early endorsement of Biden. Generally, the backing of local leaders does not make national headlines, but the mayor’s endorsement did since it came ahead of the second Democrat presidential debate, which was held in Detroit. 

The elder Duggan also made a concerted effort on Biden’s behalf ahead of Michigan’s Democrat presidential primary in March. The mayor not only hit the stump for the former vice president but also helped to bring in money for the campaign at a time when Biden was particularly cash-strapped.

It is unclear if Biden’s decision to hire Duggan is related to the mayor’s efforts on his campaign. The Biden campaign did not return requests for comment on this story.

Last year, while campaigning for the Democrat nomination in Iowa, Biden refused to rule out appointing political donors to administrative or diplomatic posts, were he to win the White House.


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