Opinion: 'Angriest mayor' or 'tough nerd': AnnArbor.com announces gubernatorial endorsement
A party label has rarely meant less than the one that hangs on Rick Snyder in the gubernatorial race.
His opponent, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, is a tried-and-true Democrat, steeped in his party’s policies and politics for nearly two decades. On the other hand, Snyder is accused even by some members of his own party of being a Republican in name only. And with some justification.
Snyder’s campaign platform is clearly shaped not by GOP orthodoxy, but rather by his own success as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. In Michigan politics, that makes him not just an outsider, but an outlier. He entered the primary as a dark horse, and won against challengers of strong Republican pedigree. Now, if polls are to be believed, he is a heavy favorite to win in November.
So it appears that voters are ready for change as dramatic as Snyder is calling for. Our question is, why shouldn’t they be? What does Michigan possibly have to lose?
We have the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate. Last year, we lost 230,000 jobs, the highest annual job loss in the 53 years that data has been collected. Our poverty rate in 2009 was 14 percent, the highest in 15 years. Last year brought record home foreclosures as well.
Snyder’s campaign has been based on diversifying Michigan’s economy and making it competitive globally, while reforming taxes, making state government more efficient and responsive and improving our schools. Possessing no political background, he talks instead about his experience as president and chief operating officer for Gateway, and his more recent involvement in economic development in Ann Arbor and in Michigan, and successful efforts to raise venture capital to support job development here.
To hear some of the ways that Snyder has been attacked over his business background is to understand how far removed Michigan has become from what made it an economic powerhouse. Our great prosperity of the 20th Century was created through entrepreneurship. But that success led to complacency, and overreliance on one industry that lost its ability to compete globally.
Our fall from economic might has been painful, and the prescription for becoming competitive again is painful as well. In talking about the changes he’d make, Snyder has been pragmatic and business-like, but his message is that Lansing must behave very differently, and so it must.
Bernero, running as an underdog, has been scrappy. To his credit, his record as mayor in Lansing is admirable. Having to run a city, he grasps the need for reducing the benefit costs for public employees, and encouraging cost-saving consolidation by local governments and school districts - positions Snyder takes as well.
But Bernero’s economic plan for the state strikes us as backward looking, focusing on trying to re-establish manufacturing jobs in Michigan by recruiting new companies to come here. Manufacturing still has a place in Michigan’s future, but as part of a more diversified economy. We also find it telling that while Bernero has put manufacturing at the core of his economic plan, the Michigan Manufacturers Association has endorsed Snyder. That says something about whose economic plan the manufacturers of this state see as more promising for creating jobs in the future.
Snyder’s approach doesn’t call on the state to try to pick winners and losers. As a venture capitalist, he knows how hard that is. Instead, he seeks to create an economic climate in Michigan that fosters entrepreneurship, risk-taking, technology transfer and locally grown businesses. Some businesses that start here will eventually move somewhere else. But others will stay, and some that might have started elsewhere will start here instead. Some businesses here will seek global markets and open overseas operations. To see that as bad, or to try to prevent it, is to wish for a world that no longer exists.
Whatever lifts Michigan out of its economic distress, it won’t be hand-wringing, it won’t be politics as usual, and it won’t be the paralysis and excessive partisanship that has plagued Lansing. Someone has to drag this state and its politics kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
We’ve had a chance to observe Snyder since the beginning of the primary season. We’re impressed how he’s grown as a candidate, and how he’s stuck to the core concepts of his campaign. We don’t think he has all the answers - or even claims to have all the answers. But in this election, we do think he offers the kind of change that Michigan is ready for, and that Michigan needs. We endorse Rick Snyder for governor in November.
Read AnnArbor.com's choices for the 52nd House District and 15th Congressional District seats here.
Editor’s note: The three community members who serve on our Editorial Board - David Mielke, Bob Guenzel and Marsha Chamberlin - did not participate in the endorsement interviews and were not involved in this endorsement decision.