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Snyder steers apparent GOP sweep of Michigan's top offices

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DETROIT — Republican Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist who a year ago was a political unknown, was elected Michigan's next governor in a landslide victory.

Early unofficial returns and exit polls showed Mr. Snyder, a former chief executive officer of the Gateway computer firm, was getting about 60 percent of the vote against Democrat Virg Bernero, Lansing's mayor.

“We did it! The real work begins now!“ the Ann Arbor businessman posted on his Web site when the returns began to come in.

Mr. Snyder, 52, a self-made multimillionaire, pledged to “reinvent Michigan,” reform its government, and try to restart the state's post-automotive economy.

The size of the Snyder victory also seemed to be contributing to what seemed to be shaping up as a rare GOP sweep of the top state offices. Republican Bill Schuette was running ahead of Democratic rival David Leyton for attorney general.

The Democrats' best hope long had been the contest for secretary of state, but Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, the Republican, was ahead of Democrat Jocelyn Benson.

Republicans also seemed all but certain to win back control of the Michigan Supreme Court. Republican Mary Beth Kelly was far ahead of newly appointed Democratic Justice Alton Davis, and GOP incumbent Robert Young, Jr., also seemed to have won.

Republicans retained their 27-year lock on the Michigan state Senate, though control of Michigan's House of Representatives, which had been in Democratic hands, was too close to call.

In the governor's race, Mr. Bernero, 46, waited only two hours after the polls closed before issuing a gracious concession speech, saying, simply, “It wasn't our time.“

He pledged to work with Mr. Snyder, but urged him not to give up on the state's fading manufacturing sector or its working people, before vowing, “We will never give up on you, and never give up on Michigan.”

Both sides acknowledged that Mr. Snyder heavily outspent his rival, largely by pouring millions of dollars into his own campaign.

The Republican tide in Michigan was in stark contrast to four years ago, when incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm romped to victory over her Republican rival, or two years ago, when President Obama won Michigan by an even bigger landslide.

But since then, Ms. Granholm and the Democrats have become deeply unpopular. Polls said voters blamed them for the terrible economy, which has led to a 13 percent unemployment rate and has seen nearly a million jobs disappear in the last decade.

Democrats tried to attack Mr. Snyder for outsourcing jobs to China while he was head of Gateway computers, but the charges never resonated with the voters.

Even before the final numbers were counted, what everyone did agree on was that the new governor would have his work cut out for him. Michigan is facing a $1.6 billion deficit, with no stimulus money remaining or easy cuts available.

Many Republican legislators have vowed to block any new tax increases, and Mr. Snyder promised to reform the business tax structure in such a way that would add to the deficit.

How he plans to balance the budget is not clear. Nor was it apparent how Mr. Snyder, who has never spent a day in government, planned to work with legislators, who may have their own agendas.

Former Gov. James Blanchard predicted Mr. Snyder would have to turn to Democrats for help in governing.

“He's going to need all the help he can get,” said Mr. Blanchard, who acknowledged his Democrats had taken a drubbing. “This is part of the cycle of things. It will be a rebuilding time for us, and out of this some new leaders are certain to emerge.”

Two proposed constitutional amendments on the Michigan ballot appeared to be faring very differently Tuesday night.

Voters were decisively rejecting a proposal to call a constitutional convention by a more than two-to-one margin.

But they were approving an amendment to bar convicted felons who “abused the public trust” from holding elected or appointed office for 20 years after their conviction, a measure widely believed to have been inspired by disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

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