By Ryan Felton
DETROIT (Reuters) - A former hospital executive and a county sheriff appear to be the top two contenders advancing to the general election in November that will produce a new mayor of debt-laden Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, according to election results Tuesday night.
With 98 percent of the city's precincts reporting, Mike Duggan, a former hospital chief executive waging a long-shot write-in campaign appears to have received more than half of the votes in a crowded field of 16 contenders.
More than half the votes counted have been for a write-in candidate. Election officials have not tallied the names on the write-in ballots but the vast majority are presumed to be for Duggan.
"This is the rarest of all campaigns," Duggan told a crowd of supporters. "This is the campaign where the volunteers motivated and inspired the candidate."
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon was in second place, with 30 percent of the vote.
Unlike the Republican and Democratic primaries held to pick candidates for many local and national races, Detroit holds an open, non-partisan primary for mayor, with the two top vote-getters advancing to the general election.
The candidates will face off in a general election on November 5 to replace Mayor Dave Bing, who decided not to seek re-election after the city was put under the supervision of a state-appointed emergency manager in March.
Once the automotive center of the world, Detroit's economy and population has shrunk, and the city is saddled with an estimated $18 billion to $20 billion in debt. In March, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr as emergency manager. Orr is expected to serve for at least 18 months.
The ballot carried another write-in candidate with a similar name to the top vote-getter in Tuesday's election, Mike Dugeon, a barber whose entry into the race was seen as an attempt to spoil Duggan's efforts.
Other candidates in the field included four-time mayoral candidate and accountant Tom Barrow, former state representative Lisa Howze, state Representative Fred Durhal Jr., former Detroit corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon and state Representative John Olumba.
(Reporting by Ryan Felton; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Lisa Shumaker)