The only good thing (or maybe not so good thing) about 2010 in Michigan is that the state will see the end to the eight year reign of Jennifer Granholm as governor. It’s not just the country at large. The last decade has seen an economic decline in the state. Some can make the case that our economy tanked two years before the rest of the country. As jobs are lost, businesses relocate or downsize and people have moved out in alarming numbers. Unemployment is at a perilously high figure; in the urban areas it can be has high as 25%. The infrastructure, always a sore spot, is getting worse by the day. Michigan has also had a problem with balancing the state budget for years. High government salaries and legacy costs of pension, a high number of people on assistance and in prisons have not helped either. Last year we used stimulus money to plug holes.
There comes the logical question: Who would aspire to be governor in a state with mounting financial problems, where businesses are fleeing because of unfavorable taxation? Unless something drastic is done (and soon), Michigan may be a state asking for a federal bailout.
Enter the two candidates for this year’s go-round at the governor’s mansion. On one side, we have the self-proclaimed ‘nerd’ boy, Republican Rick Snyder. Once a head of Gateway Mr. Snyder has a solid background in launching and running several Michigan businesses.
The Democrat Party entry is Virg Bernero, the ‘angry mayor’ of Lansing. Mr. Bernero is a lifetime politician, having served as a county commissioner, state representative and state senator.
That both candidates won their primaries is amazing. There were better known politicians in the running on both sides. Both appear to be proud of their self-anointed designations.
The problem for both of these candidates is an enormous amount of apathy for the election. After eight years of a faltering economy, it’s tough to rally enthusiasm for the governor’s office, and let’s face it, most people vote along party lines without delving into the platform and past performance of the candidate.
Even though it is a plus to have someone with a business background run for office (not many businessmen I know would risk their fortune and future success piling more resources on an unsustainable course and that budget is a sticky subject for most of us), candidates with business acumen rarely are successful, especially in a highly unionized state such as Michigan. Governor Granholm (Democrat) last ran against businessman Dick DeVos (founder of Amway), delivering a thorough trouncing four years ago. Similarly, this year there are accusations of Mr. Snyder sending Gateway jobs over to China and that he cashed out big time before leaving the company.
On the other side, people who attain office and become career politicians seem to throw their sensibility and values out the window as soon as they are crushed by the political machine. Often times, it’s before the winner can set up their nameplate. Many people, myself included, are leery of politicians, and for good reason. Promises are many but results are few. It might be one thing to promise a reduction in spending, but as soon as the doors are closed (and they are) to the budget room, the result may be the same-old same old.
Michigan voters should take a good, hard look at this season’s choices for governor. Ask the tough questions and look behind the glad hands and façade before you cast your ballot. Don’t be afraid to express your concerns if the winner does a 180.
After all, our future depends on it.