The field is set and public appearances are in full swing. With the Aug. 3 primary just weeks away, DBusiness evaluates each of Michigan’s serious gubernatorial candidates:
Mike Bouchard — A former state senator and current Oakland County Sheriff, Bouchard is a likable and dedicated public servant. But his name recognition still needs work outside of metro Detroit. There’s concern over whether he can run a major organization like the state of Michigan, but he gets high marks for proposing that any tax hike or increase in total state spending require a two-thirds majority vote in the state Legislature. The Republican runs a tight ship in Oakland County, and has shown he can privatize services and save money.
Mike Cox — Cox has his campaign speech down pat, but Michigan voters can be a conservative bunch when it comes to extramarital affairs. And although he’s been an able attorney general, his predecessor ruined any notion — for now — that the position is a natural steppingstone to higher office. Cox, a Republican, speaks a lot in generalities, and has spent far too much time on trying to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes (it’s a federal issue). If Michigan wants another politician to sit behind the governor’s desk, Cox is the candidate to beat. But if he does take office, it’ll be politics as usual.
Andy Dillon — Currently Speaker of the House, Dillon is an astute and learned politician who surprised everyone last year by announcing a major overhaul of state employee health care. But while the plan should be in high gear by now, it’s stuck in neutral. Dillon got high marks for announcing the plan on his own, as Gov. Granholm and the Democratic Party would never have allowed the proposal to see the light of day. Fundraising is a challenge and — let’s be frank — the only reason Dillon is in the race is because Lt. Gov. John Cherry dropped out (his fundraising challenges proved too daunting). It’s not easy being a Democrat these days, especially when you can’t balance the state budget on time.
Pete Hoekstra — His campaign mantra to work 100 jobs and bike 1,000 miles was fairly novel, but is he ready for the nation’s toughest governor gig? That’s the $64,000 question. His nine consecutive terms in the House of Representatives is commendable, but Washington, D.C. isn’t the feather in the cap voters like to see these days. Vying for the GOP nomination, Hoekstra often cites his business career as a plus (he was vice president of marketing for a large furniture company on the west side of the state), but a C-level title would have been better. Hoekstra, who recently lost some footing when he tried to solicit campaign donations in the wake of the Christmas Bomber hysteria, must also meet the challenges of name recognition.
Rick Snyder — The most surprising candidate in the race. Not much political experience, but that’s a plus these days. If voters are really tired of politics as usual, Snyder is a lock. The Republican businessman has a large war chest (over $3 million raised to date) — and none of it comes from special interests. Lots of astute business people are supporting him, including William Clay Ford Jr. Snyder still has a ways to go with his name recognition, but he’s rising in the polls. As president and COO of Gateway Computers throughout the ’90s, Snyder proved he could run a large organization adeptly.