Much of the coverage of the Michigan gubernatorial race between Democrat Virg Bernero and Republican Rick Snyder has played up the contrast between career politician Bernero, mayor of Lansing and a former legislator, and businessman Snyder, who's never held elected office.
This type of coverage lacks substance, for it is where the candidates stand on the issues that matters, particularly their ideas for reviving Michigan's battered economy. Bernero focuses on job creation and long overdue economic diversification.
Bernero's economic plan includes reforming the business tax structure to reward job creation and export manufacturing, including eliminating the Michigan Business Tax surcharge; creating a state bank, which in partnership with Michigan-based community banks and credit unions, would make loans for job-creating new equipment and facility expansion; establishing a microenterprise fund for job-creating loans to small manufacturers; redeveloping old Big Three plants as green manufacturing zones, for the advanced manufacturing of green technologies such as solar, wind, biomass, and electric battery and vehicle technology; creating international business investment zones to attract foreign investment of at least $500,000 that creates at least 10 jobs; and securing more than $2 billion in federal funds to rebuild the state's crumbling infrastructure.
Much of Michigan's decline in manufacturing jobs has been caused by free trade agreements such as NAFTA. Bernero has been on top of this issue for years, blasting Wall Street for exporting American jobs in the name of free trade policies while taking in enormous profits. His fiery rhetoric has labeled Bernero as "America's Angriest Mayor," and here he shows something most politicians, particularly Democrats, lack: passion. As governor, Bernero wants to fight for fair trade policies.
At the same time, Bernero has proven himself an effective administrator while mayor of Lansing. He eliminated a $40 million deficit without raising taxes or laying off city employees. He took the lead in making sacrifices by cutting his own pay and increasing his health insurance premium. For economic development, the city leveraged more than $500 million in new investment that created more than 6,000 jobs.
Polls show Bernero trailing Snyder, but Bernero came from behind to win the Democratic primary over state House Speaker Andy Dillon, the early favorite. Will this pattern repeat itself on Nov. 2? Time will tell.