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Published: Tuesday, 11/14/2006

Money not enough for DeVos

WHATEVER your politics, there has to be something encouraging about last week's election results in Michigan, if only for one reason: they proved you still can't buy an election.

Amway billionaire Dick DeVos certainly tried. He broke all records for spending. Though final numbers aren't in, it seems likely that Mr. DeVos spent close to $50 million on his campaign, perhaps $30 million of it his own money, most of it on slickly packaged TV commercials.

Despite all that, he lost in a landslide, racking up the second-worst showing by a Republican candidate for governor in modern Michigan history. At the end of the day, he had two insurmountable problems: the national disappointment in President Bush and the Republicans, and the fact that he was, well, Dick DeVos. In other words: not ready for prime time.

Once he had to actually debate Jennifer Granholm on TV, and answer questions from reporters, the race was over. Few people anywhere are better on TV than the governor, who managed to make people forget that she really had no agenda and accomplished little during her first term. Now, with a huge mandate and Democrats in control of one house of the legislature, she needs to get something done.

First order of business has to be replacing the revenue lost when the Michigan Legislature abolished the $1.9 billion Single Business Tax, effective in December, 2007, with nary a thought as to how to replace the revenue. Some combination of a modest corporate tax plus extending the state sales taxes to some services might be the easiest and most painless way.

After that, what matters most is making Michigan ready to attract the jobs of the future. Mr. DeVos's idea was to slash taxes so low the state's ability to provide essential services would have been endangered. It isn't clear what the governor wants to do.

But strengthening education, especially higher education, and taking restraints off promising technologies like stem cell research is essential, and Ms. Granholm has voiced support for both.

Michigan Democrats would do well to remember that this year's results were more a vote against the Republicans than a vote for them. Indeed, through internal squabbling, Democrats booted a chance to elect an attorney general. Democrats also refused to fund challengers and hence blew chances to defeat two congressmen, a right-wing zealot, Tim Walberg, in the 7th Congressional District, and the aging, out-of-touch Joe Knollenberg in the 9th.

Most importantly, however, they need to do something to improve the state's economy with the mandate they received. If they don't, they are all but certain to be back on the outside, looking in.

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