The Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Conference concluded last week. This was the 30th annual meeting held at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The convention features keynote speakers and elected officials and business leaders from Michigan and the Great Lakes Region to discuss the political and economic climate of the region. More than 1,500 people attended the event. Noted speakers this year were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
This year’s convention featured all seven gubernatorial candidates from both parties. The Republicans vying for governor are Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Attorney General Mike Cox, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, businessman Rick Snyder and State Senator Tom George. The Democrat candidates are State House Speaker Andy Dillion and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Most reports claim the event was a political alley fight where the candidates got their zingers to their targeted foes.
Attendees didn’t approve of some the insults. Mr. Snyder took swipes at Mr. Cox regarding his alleged extra-marital affairs. Cox accused Snyder of shipping jobs overseas. Snyder was a former executive of Gateway Computer.
This type of open debate forum usually rewards the candidate who has the best zingers and the cleverest sound bites. The audience leaves the venue remembering nothing other than what made them laugh.
The format could have been beneficial for the audience and for Michigan voters. Instead of putting all seven candidates on the stage together, each candidate would be onstage individually and make their presentations about their candidacy and qualifications. They then could field questions from the audience within a structured time limit. The focus is on that candidate when only one candidate has the microphone. He will be forced to say how he will lead Michigan based on his past record.
The chambers of commerce throughout the state would be well served to invite these candidates to open forums so the candidate can convey why he wants to be our next governor. To get all candidates from both parties may be difficult to schedule. This state needs a confident leader. Putting a candidate on the spot to convince us Michiganders he can lead instead of verbally jabbing his opponent will be a welcome remedy.