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Posted on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:32 p.m.

Costumed protestors in Ann Arbor call Rick Snyder a 'chicken' for 'ducking' debates

By Ryan J. Stanton


Virg Bernero supporters protest outside Rick Snyder's office in downtown Ann Arbor today. They carried signs calling Snyder a 'chicken' for 'ducking' debates with Bernero.

Ryan J. Stanton |

About a dozen protestors — including a duck, a chicken and a cow — took to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor this afternoon to picket outside the campaign office of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder.

Carrying signs that called Snyder a "chicken" for "ducking" debates with Democratic nominee Virg Bernero, the protestors marched up and down the sidewalks.

"We're out here to really stress the critical need for Rick Snyder to accept debates," said Jamaine Dickens, spokesman for the Michigan Democratic Coordinated Campaign.


In addition to Snyder's refusal to debate Bernero, the protestors also criticized Snyder's record at Gateway Computers.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"Ducking these debates and ignoring these debates is not an affront to Virg Bernero," he said. "It's really an affront to the state of Michigan, the voters in this state who really deserve an opportunity to kick the tires on these two candidates. Anywhere in America that you go and seek a job, you have to sit down with an employer for an interview."

Bernero went on the attack against his Republican opponent over the weekend, calling Snyder a "wimp" for backing out of debating against him. Snyder unilaterally called off all debate negotiations on Friday after the two campaigns failed to come to an agreement on terms for three debates that Snyder had proposed.

Bernero's campaign said today it agreed to almost all of Snyder’s demands and was willing to finish discussing details, but Snyder won't come back to the table.

Snyder spokesman Bill Nowling told today "there's no more negotiations." He said it became clear last week that Bernero was more interested in making a splash in the media than actually working out details of any debates with Snyder.

"We're tired of this political gamesmanship. We've been sitting down for the last five weeks, and very earnestly for the last two weeks, to get something done," Nowling said of the debate negotiations. "For someone who says they would debate anytime, anywhere, under any rules, you'd think they would have accepted our proposals by now."

The last time Michigan’s two major party candidates for governor didn't debate was in 1998, when Republican incumbent Gov. John Engler refused to appear with Democratic candidate Geoffrey Fieger. Fieger aired TV ads showing a chicken running around, and called Engler a "chicken" for ducking debates. Engler still won a third term in a landslide.

University of Michigan student Hari Vutukuru wore a chicken costume as he protested outside Snyder's office today. Another student wore a yellow duck costume.

"I think it's sad and pathetic that Mr. Snyder doesn't want to debate," he said, holding a sign calling Snyder a chicken. "I mean, considering where our state is right now — we're dead last in terms of unemployment, job growth and economic development — and here you have someone who doesn't want to answer the people's questions."

Vinay Ramanathan, another U-M student, wore a cow suit — a nod to Snyder's tenure with Gateway Computers, known for its spotted boxes patterned after cow markings. He was part of a trio of protestors holding signs that read: "Rick Snyder moooves our jobs to China."

"Virg Bernero has been tested," Ramanathan said of his reasons for favoring Bernero. "As the mayor of Lansing, he's balanced the budget five times. He has a track record where he's proven that he can do things. And he seems to have the best plan to move Michigan forward."

Stuart Dowty, chairman of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party, joined in today's protest. He said if the two candidates debated, Michigan voters could see who is the real job creator.

"Snyder's history is outsourcing jobs to Asia, manipulating stocks and derivatives and things like that to make money," he said. "We need somebody who represents a policy where you build the economy by manufacturing things, real things, that are made in Michigan."

Snyder is credited for growing jobs as president of computer maker Gateway, but the company later announced it would begin outsourcing manufacturing and some service functions in 2003 when Snyder was on the board of directors but was no longer president.

Doug Kelley, dressed in American flag garb, held a sign that read: "Chicken Rich Rick."

"My understanding is that Rick's firm did a whale of a lot of outsourcing and that, when he left, there was a multimillion-dollar severance package," he said. "I think when you elect a multimillionaire, you get policies that suit multimillionaires and not all of the rest of us. Virg Bernero has shown that he can economize in government without raising taxes, without mass layoffs, and he has working people's interests in mind."

Ann Arbor resident Stephen Landes, a Republican who is volunteering for Snyder's campaign, stopped by outside Snyder's office as today's protest was getting under way.

"From my perspective, Rick made a good faith offer to do debates," Landes said. "Mr. Bernero seems to want to delay things until there's no reasonable way of holding the debates and then claim that Rick is the problem. It's the typical, old-line, political-party-hack kind of approach, and I don't think it makes much sense in this state. We don't need that anymore."

Nowling said Snyder has done 58 town hall meetings and plans to do about 17 more before Election Day on Nov. 2. He said Snyder is accessible at his town hall forums and will candidly and publicly answer any questions that audience members ask him.

"I don't think people are buying that Rick is running from anything," Nowling said, noting that Snyder and Bernero have appeared side-by-side six times. "They're going to be on the same stage on Friday in Grand Rapids. There's been ample opportunity to see these guys."

Bernero sent a letter to television stations all across the state on Sunday, encouraging them to set fair debate formats of their choosing and invite both candidates to attend, negating the need for negotiations between the campaigns. Bernero announced today he has accepted an offer to attend a debate hosted by WXYZ-TV in Detroit on Oct. 21.

WXYZ, in partnership with WWJ Newsradio 950 and Crain’s Detroit Business, originally sent invitations to candidates to debate in August, as did many other Michigan television stations. Bernero said he accepted three offers and planned to accept more, but Snyder wanted to hold debate negotiations to select particular stations and prearranged conditions.

"We don’t need any more political wheeling and dealing,” Bernero said in a statement today. “I say let neutral parties set fair and common sense terms, I’ll show up, and hopefully Mr. Snyder will join me in participating in the Democratic process.”

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 6:44 p.m.

from the pictures looks like old Virg cleaned out a nursing home for the photo op. nion home I'm sure

mike from saline

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:24 p.m.

You've gotta wonder, after this sillyness, how close is Verg Benero to having one of those "Howard Dean, wild-eyed, primal scream, yeeeehaaa moments.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

Moooooove on people nothing to read here.......


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 1:10 p.m.

Have those unemployed union people no shame?! They dress up like farm animals, in support of their candidate?! Hilarious! Just like the Mayor's idea of a "state run bank." With such past hits like "the lottery" or this classic "public education." The only people working will be moving companies, getting people out of this state. I only ask, that this publication refuses to cover protest with less than 50 people. I live in ypsi, and I know that I can get atleast a dozen people to dress up like farm animals.....for any cause! LOL!


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

At top we see a modest number of local Democratic Party activists enjoying some daytime fun at the expense of Rick Snyder's self-serving avoidance behavior. This sort of thing is a lot more entertaining for the public, and more fun for the participants as well, than merely issuing another bland press release, followed by another email mass message to the usual recipient list. Even if all media in the area had entirely ignored this action, it's still pleasant to hang out near a downtown intersection (adjacent to Arbor Brewing, Arena, and a major parking structure) on a mild, sunny day to make a political point in playful good cheer for anyone who happens to pass by. Judging from many of these later comments, it seems that various Snyder supporters, especially the more vocal apologists for corporate behavior, have been steadily tying themselves up in knots over the press coverage. As of late, has the level of teasing commentary gotten a wee bit under their collective (chicken) skins? Are such defensive feelings not easily resolved?

Martin Church

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

I say if we are going to debate let's put it on the radio. that way after the debate we don't get into things that have nothing to do with what was being discussed. Like how many times a person sweated durign questioning. or the media looking for thirty second sound bites. if Berno was so good what happended to the oldsmobile plant in lansing. and how much spending on lansing infrasturcture was paid for by the state with our tax dollars. how many jobs were moved to lansing from other michigan cities?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 10:14 a.m.

Folks -- grow up. I personally do not know the logistics as to why there have been no debates to date, but the performance of the individuals protesting in support of Bernero encourages me even more to vote for the professional (Snyder) who is using a positive campaign instead of slinging negative ads.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

I wonder how much Bernero had to pay them. Losers supporting Michigan's biggest loser of the 2010 elections. Bernero has articulated no ideas as yet other than to whine, and cry, and snivel. All he wants to do is deliver innuendo and half truths as he has no ideas or credibility in a vain hope it will aid his campaign. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a truly neutral moderator that could halt the debate and announce to the audience when one party of the other was being less than honest.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:19 a.m.

It's a tough call. On the one hand, Bernero is clearly an idiot who doesn't have much of a plan. On the other hand, if Snyder's plan is so great, why won't he explain/debate it in a neutral forum(i.e., one not set up by his campaign)? He's just trying to buy the election with his personal wealth, figuring he can get enough exposure without ever having to face tough questions. Elitist or dolt, which is worse?

Nancy Jowske

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:04 a.m.

Who's running Bernero's campaign? Geoffrey Fieger? Well, when you don't have a coherent economic plan and your "think tank" is all the usual union dupes what else can you do but resort to animal suits and name calling. How could anyone but a union dupe vote for this clown?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:17 a.m.

How embarrassing it must be for Stu Dowty to have to put on a duck suit (couldn't find a chicken suit?). What is the party stooping to? I'm embarrassed for him.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:08 a.m.

Good God, these protesters need to get a life. What a lame tactic.

Olan Owen Barnes

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 1:14 a.m.

The article was so biased that it fit well with my desire to stop the pain based on this type of reporting. I had dropped the paper version of Ann Arbor dot com in part because of bad editing and poor reporting and this is a good example of both. Even with my cancellation the paper still comes to my mail box. The antics of this mayor activity does nothing but turn off people and your reporting of a few folks in Halloween attire is a waste.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:26 a.m.

Don't these quacks have anything better to do? What a waste of energy!


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

Only twelve union members in aa?? wow, i thought that we would have a much larger turnout. Must have been bridgecard day.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

These Democrats look even more idiotic than Virg does.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

Didn't Bernero want eight debates in three months? Three debates in eight months seems a bit more reasonable to me. How many different questions could actually be asked? Sounds like a scam to get free TV exposure. I'm not sure I could sit through more than one or two debates anyway.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

Stu Dowty has reduced himself to this????? Once the King and Queen were turfed in Pittsfield Township he has been on the outside looking in. Folks, this is folly. The DEMS took this state into the ditch and now they are dressing up in costumes looking like clowns....oh the irony!


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:12 p.m.

And I thought the Tea Party people dressed a bit strange... These people got 'em beat!


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 7:01 p.m.

Turn chicken Duck debates Udder cow-ardice.... And it makes me wonder, As he drives through a Gateway to Westland

Duane Collicott

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:54 p.m.

This is a very lopsided article, which is becoming standard for The tone of the Bernero message is that Snyder is running away from Debates. However... According to the Free Press, in an article posted two days before the AAC post, "Snyder spokesman Bill Nowling said: 'Rick thinks it's important for voters to hear from both candidates. But we've been negotiating for over a month. It's clear that the Bernero camp wants to turn this into a circus... and we're not going to participate.'" According to Snyder on WJR this morning (aired at least 7 hours before the AAC post), he proposed three debates - Detroit, Grand Rapids, and a third somewhere "up north" - with journalist moderators from both sides of the spectrum and could never get an answer from the Bernero camp. Snyder stated their concern was to get the debates in before absentee ballots are distributed. I can't blame Snyder for deciding to put Bernero's games behind them and move on. Bernero's behavior indicates he would be better suited for a job in a traveling carnival than the office of Governor. I can't for November when we can start the process of putting adults back in charge of the state.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

Bernero should articulate a platform first. His platitudes and pontifications/ bad mouthing/ name calling are not a basis for a debate.

5c0++ H4d13y

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:34 p.m.

Here's hoping the rest of the country is otherwise occupied to not notice what a laughing stock Michigan could be with these antics. Before I go to bed night I'll pray for sex scandal in New York or Florida... I better ask for both.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:09 p.m.

"It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." - Spinal Tap

David Cahill

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

My guess is that Snyder will have no choice except to show up at debates hosted by the media. He can't afford to let Bernero debate an empty chair. Let's hope the media don't let him chicken out.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

I respect Rick more for not wanting to debate. They are an absolute waste of time. The canidates never answer the questions they are asked, all it does is give the career politician the chance to do what they do best which is make up numbers in their favor and lie, talk over the person. I would rather have someone who does town hall meetings all over the state and meet/listen to the people then do a pointless debate that just gives sound bites.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

Thanks, Ryan, for the correction. Separately, I just think it's funny that this event is headline news! It's much better described as a prearranged photo op. I watched the event from my office window on Washington Street where I have a great view of Rick's offices. The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than 30 minutes. And to say that the protesters 'marched' seems to me a bit sensationalist. They kind of stood around and held their signs. Why the cow didn't hold the sign that had the word 'moooves' on it is beyond me... Personally, I'd the describe the protesters as more of nuisance to anyone trying to walk down the sidewalk than anything else. At least when Rick's staff are outside smoking cigarettes, they stay out of the way of the pedestrians...that is prior to disposing of their cigarette butts into the storm drain/sewer...

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:12 p.m.

I'm not voting for either of these two but please, please don't let this tactic work. Moooving jobs? Chickens? That's the level of discourse that we've sunk to? Great campaigning...if you're running for class president in the 4th grade.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

I love how well the duck gets attention.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 5:05 p.m.

Just got more info: Bernero confronted Snyder at Snyder's Town Hall in Westland urging him to sit down man-to-man to negotiate debates.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:57 p.m.

Rick Snyder is holding a town hall meeting in Westland right now as we speak. I just found out Virg Bernero has shown up to the event to extend an offer. Don't know details. Bill Nowling just tweeted "@onetoughnerd just invited @votevirg to joint him at Westland Town Hall. Both on now #rickformi"


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

"Ducking these debates and ignoring these debates is not an affront to Virg Bernero," he said. "It's really an affront to the state of Michigan, the voters in this state who really deserve an opportunity to kick the tires on these two candidates. Anywhere in America that you go and seek a job, you have to sit down with an employer for an interview." That's the exact same montra that Berbero used on WJR this morning. Clearly they following a script...which, will gain them nothing in the end. The only difference that I heard this morning was that of tone. Bernero is really quite rude and hysterical.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:50 p.m.

Hahahaa! I LOVE Michigan politics!

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:31 p.m.

@gulfstream Yes, I believe you're right. I've ever so slightly tweaked the wording in the story to clarify that we've got a duck, a chicken and a cow. As I understand it, I believe the thinking here is Snyder is "ducking" the debates and that makes him a "chicken." The protestors also talked about him "moooving" jobs overseas while with Gateway Computers, hence the cow.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:30 p.m.

A dozen? Did they include Stanton and Bomey? You guys are getting rather transparent in your support for Bernero.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

While Mayor Bernero is crying fowl, the next Governor of the Great State of Michigan is going city to city discussing his plan directly with the people. I would suggest if Virg wants a better tomorrow, he should join the majority of voters and hire Rick!


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

If Rick's afraid to debate, I'm afraid to vote for him.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.


Top Cat

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

I didn't expect that we would hit a low point in the dialogue so soon. Bernero can't possibly believe that this is going to gain him any favor with the voters.


Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Pretty sure that's a duck in the picture, no?