LANSING — With unemployment hovering around 13 percent and state government finances continuing to founder, it's no surprise the people running for governor are promising to do things a lot differently than term-limited Democratic incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Republican Rick Snyder, a former computer company executive and venture capitalist, says he wants to “reinvent” not just the way Michigan government runs but the entire state culture.
Democrat Virg Bernero says he wants to do at the state level what he has done in five years as Lansing mayor: balance the budget without raising taxes and attract more jobs in health care, insurance, and high-tech manufacturing.
Mr. Snyder's backers like the fact he's a businessman and has an upbeat vision for Michigan, while Mr. Bernero's like his support for abortion rights and ideas to help the middle class.
Mr. Snyder wants to get rid of the Michigan business tax and replace it with a corporate income tax, a move he said would save businesses $1.5 billion.
Mr. Bernero favors abolishing the 22 percent business tax surcharge — saving businesses $500 million — and creating a state-run bank to make loans available to college students and small business owners.
Both men say they'd make up the budget shortfalls by making government run better but give few specifics on how that would work with revenues having dropped billions of dollars in recent years, forcing cuts in services and staff.
The state has more than 50 Tea Party groups and their calls for limited government and less spending have given veteran Libertarian Party candidate Ken Proctor of Charlotte a bigger following than in his past campaigns.
“One of the things I've noticed this year is the willingness to look to myself for people who have traditionally voted for the Ds and Rs,” Mr. Proctor said.
Mr. Snyder has promoted himself as a moderate, although he did pick conservative state Rep. Brian Calley, 33, as his running mate. The move toward the middle has helped him win over some independents and Democrats but pushed conservatives to consider third-party candidates such as Mr. Proctor and Stacey Mathia, a community organizer inspired partly by the Tea Party to run.
“I'm running because I love this state and I want to see it turned around,” said Ms. Mathia, a former Fife Lake Village Council member in Grand Traverse County who's running on the U.S. Taxpayers Party ticket.
Green Party candidate Harley Mikkelson of Caro also is in the race. He favors tax reforms to encourage local food production and processing and tourism.
Mr. Snyder says he has “created thousands of jobs,” but Democrats say that isn't the whole story.
They note he received millions in pay and stock sales while he was a top executive and board member at computer maker Gateway Inc. Although the firm added more than 9,000 jobs while he worked there, most disappeared when the company moved its manufacturing operations abroad after Mr. Snyder stepped down as president. He says he had no say in that decision as a company director. Gateway now is a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Acer Inc.
Mr. Snyder has poured millions of his own money into the race, largely on ads that stress his business experience and promote him as “one tough nerd.”
Mr. Bernero, a former county commissioner and state lawmaker, says he's the one who knows how to best turn ideas into action. He says he and his running mate, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, have a record of attracting jobs to their communities and balancing budgets without raising taxes.
His brash manner has made him enemies over the years, and Republicans say his endorsements from major unions will make him beholden to them. Mr. Bernero says he has stood up to unions when Lansing needed concessions. He embraces his passion for middle-class workers as a strength, not a liability.
“I've see the pain people are feeling and it's fueling me to do more for Michigan,” he said in a campaign ad. “We need a governor who's tough enough to stand up for Michigan and turn things around.”
In other statewide races:
• Supreme Court: Republicans have nominated Justice Robert Young Jr. for another eight-year term, along with Wayne County Judge Mary Beth Kelly. Democrats are offering Justice Alton T. Davis, newly appointed to the court in summer, and Oakland County Judge Denise Langford Morris. Two seats are at stake. The races appear as nonpartisan at the end of the ballot.
• Attorney general: Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, a Democrat, and former Court of Appeals Judge Bill Schuette, a Republican from Midland, are vying for the office held by Mike Cox, who is term-limited. Others on the ballot are U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate Gerald T. Van Sickle of Wellston and Libertarian candidate Daniel W. Grow, a 42-year-old lawyer from St. Joseph.
• Secretary of state: Candidates are Republican Ruth Johnson, who has spent six years as Oakland County clerk, and Democrat Jocelyn Benson, a Detroit law professor who worked as a voting rights policy coordinator. Others are the Green Party's John Anthony La Pietra, U.S. Taxpayers candidate Robert Gale, and Libertarian candidate Scotty Boman.