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Published: Tuesday, 6/22/2010

Mich. gubernatorial hopefuls trade jabs in Democrat forum


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The two Democrats hoping to become Michigan's next governor drew some sharp contrasts for voters in a head-to-head debate Monday.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and House Speaker Andy Dillon of Wayne County's Redford Township traded jabs about each other's potential for fixing the economy and improving the state's budget situation in a debate sponsored and televised by WOOD-TV from a Grand Valley State University campus.

Mr. Bernero attacked Mr. Dillon's record as House speaker, saying he's been ineffective and hasn't helped the state deal with budget problems and job loss.

Mr. Bernero called Mr. Dillon's record "abysmal" and said a change is needed at the state Capitol.

"We need bold leadership now - not the same tired ideas from the same people who've brought us budget gridlock and busted budgets," said Mr. Bernero, who was a state lawmaker before becoming Lansing's mayor.

Mr. Dillon defended his record and got in a few digs at Mr. Bernero, questioning his record as Lansing mayor - including budget and job-creation numbers.

"There's no question there's going to be a clear choice for voters on Aug. 3," Mr. Dillon said. "You can hear a lot from the mayor about what he wants to do, but he's not real clear about the particulars about how he's going to do it."

Both Mr. Dillon and Mr. Bernero have a lot of work to do to make themselves better known among voters.

Mr. Dillon led Mr. Bernero 34 percent to 24 percent in a poll released late last week by Lansing's EPIC-MRA. But both candidates have plenty of room for improvement because 42 percent of the likely 400 Democratic voters surveyed by phone June 12-15 were undecided as the Aug. 3 primary approaches.

Mr. Bernero and Mr. Dillon are seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who must leave office at the end of this year because of term limits.

Republicans running for governor include Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Attorney General Mike Cox, state Sen. Tom George, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, and businessman Rick Snyder. All except Mr. Snyder are scheduled to participate in a Republican debate Thursday.

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