Michigan Democratic candidate for governor Virg Bernero took time out to speak at a fundraising dinner in his honor at Byblos Banquet Hall in Dearborn, Michigan on Friday, October 5 in front of the leaders of the largest Arab American community in the United States.
The event raised funds for the Democratic candidate, who many believe trails Republican Rick Snyder heading into the Nov. 2 general election for governor in Michigan.
But Bernero reminded the attendees of the dinner that he was about 20 points behind in preliminary polls heading into the primaries against Andy Dillon before he ended up winning by a whopping 59 to 41 margin in terms of percentage points.
He also related the immigrant experience to the leaders of the community which included Michigan Department of Human Services Director Ismael Ahmed and Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Nabih Ayad among others.
“When my father came to this country, he didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” Bernero said of his dad at the dinner, an immigrant from Italy who opened a store selling fresh produce.
Bernero pledged to the leaders that they would have a place at the table should be elected as the next governor.
He also laid out his economic plans for the state. Bernero said that manufacturing jobs should not be given up on in Michigan because he said the state needs to keep its economy diverse and to not transition to only being a service economy.
He talked about how he shut down streets in Lansing to have a parade of the new Chevy Volt electric vehicles for people to get a glimpse of them and to create buzz around the product which could be a boon to the Michigan economy.
Another one of his plans involves pulling Michigan money out of Wall Street banks and creating a land bank that will invest in Michigan’s smaller banks and credit unions to help the state’s economy.
Considering the massive base of Arab American business owners in the state, the news seemed to be welcomed.
Bernero revealed that he is more fiscally conservative than typical Democrats although he remains progressive on many social issues such as the woman’s reproductive rights.
The dinner came in advance of the Arab American Political Action Committee’s (AAPAC) annual banquet at which Bernero will likely speak.
The AAPAC banquet will be held at Bint Jebail Banquet Hall in Dearborn and will include many of the top candidates for office in the state of Michigan considering the growing political clout Arab Americans have gained in the state.
Republican candidate Rick Snyder has yet to meet with Arab American community leaders in person. AAPAC has endorsed many Republicans in the past but Snyder has not reached out to them the same way Bernero has as of yet which has led many of them to turn to the Lansing mayor as their candidate of choice.
But as Ahmed said, the hope in the community is that Bernero comes back and helps them out if elected because some candidates in the past have pandered to the community for votes only to ignore their issues and concerns in the future.
Ayad, who held a fundraising dinner for Bernero prior to the primary elections, believes that Bernero is sincere in his dedication to help the Arab American community which is far more widespread and diverse than many people realize in the state seem to realize and could have a big effect on a race that could be closer than the experts think in the state of Michigan this November.
Source: All quotes from the night of the dinner on October 5 (which was attended by the reporter).