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Posted on Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:58 p.m.

Ann Arbor's Rick Snyder wins Michigan's Republican nomination for governor

By Nathan Bomey

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Rick Snyder delivers a victory speech tonight in Ypsilanti.

Melanie Maxwell |

Ann Arbor venture capitalist Rick Snyder, the former Gateway president who was virtually unknown to the political world just six months ago, won Michigan’s Republican nomination for governor tonight.

Snyder, 51, who relentlessly labeled his four GOP opponents as “career politicians” and championed his own business experience, had 37 percent of the vote with 71 percent of precincts reporting. U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra had 26 percent, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox had 23 percent, and Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard had 12 percent.

Snyder told a crowd of several hundred supporters at the Marriott hotel in Ypsilanti that it was time for "someone from the real world showing Lansing" how to govern.

"This campaign is about creating a positive future for Michigan where all Michiganders can win together," he said. "Michigan is an economic disaster. We need to focus in on jobs and creating a place for our young people."

He added: "We have a broken culture. We’ve been beaten up for a lot of years. We have our heads down too much. But you are the catalyst for changing that and bringing that positive fire of entrepreneurship and innovation back to Michigan."

When Snyder launched his campaign in July 2009, he was essentially unknown in the political world, although his business ties and personal wealth distinguished him from his competitors. As recently as six months ago, he was polling in the single digits among likely GOP voters.

By early 2010, some 80 percent of GOP voters still hadn’t heard of Snyder, which led the campaign to gamble by branding him as “one tough nerd” in a Super Bowl ad aired throughout Michigan. The ad sparked a “fabulous response,” Snyder said Monday, and gave him a quick boost in the polls.

The campaign stuck to a message focused exclusively on revitalizing Michigan’s economy by redesigning the state’s business tax structure and reconfiguring its economic development strategy.

"We need to reform our regulatory environment and realize that the comeback of Michigan is going to be Michiganders creating and growing small businesses," he said.

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Supporters rallied for Rick Snyder before he clinched the nomination.

Snyder, offering a preview of sorts to his general election strategy, said he would fight political bickering.

"We have a broken government," he said. "Special interests have far too much influence. We have far too much partisanship. And it’s time for bureaucracy to go away."

Snyder, who spent more than $5.8 million of his own cash on the primary, consistently portrayed himself as a political outsider whose business experience can disentangle the legislative gridlock in Lansing.

"If you're happy with our current system, you should seriously look at those people," he said at a press conference last year kicking off his campaign."If you fundamentally believe we are a disaster and we lack leadership, I am the clear choice."

Chris Rizik, Snyder's venture capital business partner for the last 13 years, was jubilant tonight.

"I cannot express my feelings right now," he said. "It’s that time with him that’s made me more convinced than ever that he’s the right man to lead this state."

As Michigan’s economic crisis continues to loom, Snyder is likely to be considered the favorite to succeed Jennifer Granholm as Michigan’s next governor.

Voters polled by Rasmussen Reports in June found that Snyder would have the support of 42 percent of voters in a general election race against Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who had 30 percent in the poll.

“Either Democrat will likely enter the general election at a disadvantage to the GOP’s nominee,” Politico reported today.

By winning the nomination, Snyder joins a chorus of political candidates throughout the U.S. who are finding success by highlighting their political inexperience and business experience.

Snyder's former colleagues in the technology sector are also have success with voters. In California, for example, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman won the GOP nomination for governor.

During the campaign, Snyder was forced to fend off accusations that he "shipped jobs overseas" as an executive and board member at Gateway. But government records showed that the company grew from fewer than 1,000 employees to more than 10,000 in the U.S. during the Snyder was an executive from 1991 to 1997. It was only later, when Snyder was still serving on Gateway's board, that the company started to crumble.

But voters tired of Michigan's crumbled economy seemed to embrace Snyder's claim to be a "job creator." As a venture capitalist in Ann Arbor, his most successful investments included rapidly growing local companies like HandyLab and HealthMedia.

“I’m a software engineer and I’m a nerd, and I think this guy has the right answers,” said Kevin McGinnis, a software engineer who drove from Grand Rapids to Ypsilanti for the party. “I was the victim of being downsized a year ago, and I think this is the guy to make it possible to get more jobs here."

Jeff Williams, CEO of local tech company Accuri Cytometers, said Michigan needs Snyder's leadership. Williams is former CEO of University of Michigan startup company and Snyder investment HandyLab, which is growing its Pittsfield Township operation after being sold for $275 million to Becton, Dickinson and Co. in 2009. He said Snyder isn't in it for the title.

"Rick does everything for the right reasons," Williams said. "He doesn't care if he's a one-term governor or a two-term governor. He just wants to get the state back on the right track."

Snyder supporter Bruce Heissenbuettel of Pittsfield Township said he was tired of traditional politicians.

"It really just felt like people were ready for a difference, not the same old thing," he said.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


John Floyd

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 11:42 p.m.

The major structural change Mr. Snyder can make will be moving the state tax structure away from its implicit assumption that a few big, capital-intensive firms generate most economic activity in Michigan. Historically, the current tax system's impact on smaller, newer firms hasn't mattered. Now, however, the tax system needs to move away from the idea that GM, Ford, Chrysler, Whirlpool, Dow etc. are the sources of revenue growth, and make it easier for newer, smaller, but growing firms to be created, to remain in Michigan, and be our new engines of growth (and state revenues). State-wide education quality - which may have SOME relationship to funding, among other important variables such as teacher selection, teacher tenure, and student's home lives- is the other big issue that will effect our economy over time. Even the car companies are advanced-technology-intensive - and we need to add other kinds of advanced-tech industries to our mix. Obviously many other issues matter. It strikes me, however, that the tax structure, and education quality, are the two biggest drivers of our economic future, and are the issues on which Mr. Snyder can have the greatest effect. The difference between a CEO and a governor is that a CEO can set direction and give orders based on his/her position; political actors such as a governor have to build consensus in a manner and to a degree not required of a business CEO. Business leaders do have to be able to build consensus, but in a manner unrelated to the way political actors have to build consensus. In the end, all a political actor really has Theodore Roosevelt's "Bully Pulpit". Ross Perot's candidacy in the 1980's spotlighted the differences between a business leader, and a political leader. Both positions require vision; let's hope Mr. Snyder has both skill sets. Our current political class has failed at the the politician's one great socially redeeming function: building political consensus. This much we know. It's time for new blood in the system. Give Rick a shot. John Floyd Republican for City Council 5th Ward


Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Yay!! I usually vote anybody NOT REPUBLICAN, however I chose to use this primary to vote for Rick Snyder - having to forego the rest of the ballot since we in Mi don't have open primaries. THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE). PLEASE DON'T disappoint me, Rick. This was a huge decision for me.


Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

Joe Hood, I recommend Economics 101 as well as Civics 101: 1) "a governor fights a legislature, like a CEO fights a board": The CEO hand-picks the board, which is completely compliant (with extremely rare exceptions that make the headlines). 2) "A CEO is responsible to shareholders, in governor parlance, citizens" : The CEO is appointed by the board, with no input from the shareholders; the shareholders get to "elect" the board on a proxy ballot on which there are no choices. 3) "A CEO is responsible for the direction of the company, as is a governor for the state": The direction of the state is determined by the legislature, which passes laws; the governor can only try to persuade them, which has not worked well lately. The CEO normally gets his board to rubber-stamp his policies.


Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

Plain and simple...what we've had didn't work and it's time for a change. I like the idea of a "tough nerd" trying to fix the mess this state is in. Congrats to Rick and good luck in Nov.


Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

Taken along with the Democratic results, this primary is really a wholesale repudiation of social conservatism; hurray! And in some respects, a repudiation also of big business conservatism - Rick is likely to be far more interested in creating new industries than subsidizing old ones.

Joe Hood

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 1:19 a.m.

@voiceofreason If you click on Ghost's name, you can read all of his posts, which are given wide latitude. But all fall short of ad hominem attacks. Besides, I really want to hear Ghost's reasoning why a CEO is not at all like a governor. @Cendra I truly love your double entendre.


Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 12:59 a.m.

Stephanie, I'm interested to know why my comment was removed, but the poster I responded to was allowed to tell another poster, "to go back to remedial civics class." I suggest that you start being more evenhanded with moderation. Thanks.

Nathan Bomey

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 12:51 a.m.

I just posted video of Snyder's victory speech. It's relatively raw footage, but I figured it could provide a sense of what it was like to be at his victory party.

Joe Hood

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 12:30 a.m.

@Jaded, er Ghost - I would disagree. Perhaps I don't understand you. But reasoning is this: a governor fights a legislature, like a CEO fights a board. A governor is the captain of the ship, as is the CEO. A CEO is responsible to shareholders, in governor parlance, citizens. A CEO is responsible for the direction of the company, as is a governor for the state. I suppose shareholders are the judiciary. A CEO lives in a big house as does the governor. Which private sector position would say a governor most closely follows?

Cendra Lynn

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 12:24 a.m.

How great to come here for results and see that your top headline is for Republicans without one word about the Democrat contenders. Same ol' same ol'


Wed, Aug 4, 2010 : 12:22 a.m.

Murrow's Ghost, What type of experience did Obama have prior to you voting him into office? I'm genuinely curious........

Joe Hood

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 11:53 p.m.

@Ghost Civics 101? Isn't the governor part of the executive branch of government? A chief executive officer is an executive. I recall Gateway 2000 as a very tightly run ship (with excellent tech support) until they expanded out of control and moved their headquarters to California. Oh sure, Rick may not be attuned to the machinations of greasing a bill through legislature, as someone who's been there before. But being there before tends to jade.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 11:05 p.m.

I'm for Virg, but it's such a pleasure to see Hoekstra and Cox get Rickrolled.

Dug Song

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 11:01 p.m.

I'm hoping Rick's ascension might also signal a cultural shift happening with regard to entrepreneurship and Michigan's retention of young talent. Our problems aren't strictly regional: And they're not going to get any better by "waiting it out": Virg Bernero seems like a fine contender, but it seems nobody can spell his name correctly. Sheesh.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:58 p.m.

Wow. I just did some quick research on Bernero, and he appears to be a poor man's Rod Blagojevich. I'm not sure how Ann Arborites will even be able to support this guy.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:43 p.m.

Well, now that Rick is the official Republican candidate for governor maybe he will share his specific plans for increasing employment in our state and attracting new business. So far none of the candidates from either party have described in detail the actions that they will take once elected as governor. I would like to know what actual changes in our tax laws Rick will push when he takes office. Also I hope that he will tell us where he will cut government spending and how he will increase revenue. It is time to show everyone what "nerd" really means.

Dante Marcos

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

Republican + Venture Capitalist = serious trouble.

L. C. Burgundy

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:19 p.m.

The key to a Bernero victory will be high AA, Lansing, Detroit turnouts and depressed turnout elsewhere. I still think people are underestimating the loss of support Rick will have in these areas when the D v. R rubber meets the road in a few months. Byproduct of open primaries. Regardless, it'll be the battle royale of the man who wants to lead the welfare state versus the man who wants to lead the welfare for businesses state.

Anthony Clark

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:16 p.m.

If I absolutely had to vote for a Republican, Rick Snyder would at least be somewhat palatable. However, he is too tied to big business for me. I don't trust big business types. They are not looking out for the common man. A venture capitalist and former CEO will not have my best interests in mind.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:12 p.m.

Okay, let me try a way of phrasing this that won't get censored: This is a much needed message to Michigan's anti-choice movement that the rest of us want them to go away.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:09 p.m.

@Marshall, Could not agree more, that the Repub party will win this November.Though I don't agree fully with Rick Snyders leanings, ( global warming and abortion) and was more in line with others, I voted for Rick because he has actually helped run a business unlike the others, plud they are career politicians. I am so done with career politicians. Look no futher than Dingle and Bird, what an absolute sorry state we are in.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10:07 p.m.

I voted republican today because the other republican candidates scare the crap out of me. I am most pleased. Don't know what to do in Nov. Bernero seems unimpressive as he spend most of his energy fending off attacks of his ethics and character. I like republican fiscal ideas, if they could just keep their social policy out of it I'd be sold!

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 10 p.m.

Snyder will be the next Michigan governor. Virg Bernero will be forced to go very negative with his campaign, and this will sink him. There was a very small chance of a Dem. being the next Gov. of Michigan, and with the nomination of Bernero, this number has effectively been pushed to zero.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:52 p.m.

I think people are sick of business as usual, and that's why both Bernaro and Snyder had a chance. Bernero positioned himself as being a fighter, willing to stand up for causes that liberals support, not backing down from them, and Synder positioned himself as a nerd, someone who brings creativity. I'm glad to see something different than usual in both candidates. If Bernero wins I hope he keeps that fighting spirit for the good of the state. If Snyder wins, I hope he can come up with new solutions to the collapsing economy of the state. I don't expect miracles from either, I don't believe campaign images, but something new will be welcome.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:49 p.m.

Rick Snyder is rare among Republicans. He actually believes global warming is real and caused by human activity. Hmmm... I wonder if there really are some Republican voters out there that actually care about the environment and civilization.

mike from saline

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

WOW! I don't think I've been this exited about a Republican Candidate for Govenor since.....Dick DeVos!!

L. C. Burgundy

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:34 p.m.

@ Doctor: You nailed it exactly. Somehow Bernero has managed to pull this plum situation out of nowhere. If John Cherry knew this would go down like this, he wouldn't have left the race! Snyder votes who I bet later analysis will show came mostly from urban areas today will largely shift into the D column come November(see also: snark12). Bernero wins this one walking away and R's snatch defeat from jaws of victory as most areas outside of Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Detroit sit on their hands..


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

The Dems that helped Snyder win will not be there in November, and the GOP base will be unmotivated. All Hail Governor Bonero.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:18 p.m.

My wife and I met Rick last winter in Dearborn at a Repub gathering, we were most impressed. The two of us, plus 8 family members ( after doing their own research) voted for Rick. I most certainly hopes he wins because if he does, our state wins!


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:17 p.m.

This is true of me as well. I felt a bit odd voting in that party. But here is why I did it: none of the candidates in either party were appealing at all. Snyder maybe a Republican, but he is less of one than the rest of them. The Dems don't have a chance in this one. I hope he (Snyder) can stay his course and not bend to the party heavies like John McCain did when he ran for President.


Tue, Aug 3, 2010 : 9:06 p.m.

I'm a pretty loyal Dem but I voted for Rick today and I'm happy he's going to win. I certainly prefer his moderate Republican positions over the rest of his competitors, but I may well vote for him in November as well. Good job!