On campus, Republican gubernatorial candidate Snyder discusses state's future, 'U' role in it

Anna Schulte/Daily
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Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 11, 2010

As Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder is quick to point out, his background isn’t in politics.

“I ran for precinct delegate back in 1978. That’s my only political experience,” Snyder told a crowd of roughly 120 people listening to his speech at the University’s Ford School of Public Policy on Friday afternoon.

Even now, with less than two months until the Nov. 2 election — that pits him against the Democratic nominee, Lansing mayor Virg Bernero — the Ann Arbor native and local businessman said he doesn’t like to think of himself as a politician.

“I’m simply serving as a catalyst … to reinvent our state,” Snyder said. “That’s what drove me to run.”

During his question and answer-centered talk, Snyder — the former president of Gateway Inc. and founder of Ann Arbor SPARK, an organization that provides funding to start-up ventures — focused on the unlikely growth of his campaign and the role University students play in the state’s future.

Snyder said he chose to run for governor after realizing that the state’s economic problems required more than quick “fixes.”

“We have a broken government model in our state. ‘Fixes’ are not good enough,” Snyder said. “It’s time for structural reform.”

Though he had never run a political campaign before entering the race, Snyder said his business experiences prepared him for the election cycle in ways he hadn’t expected.

“It’s amazing how similar start-ups are to political campaigns,” Snyder said. “You need a vision, a business plan and then you need to move along that path.”

For Snyder, that path revolves around a “10-point plan,” which he says is the key to a better future for Michigan.

The plan emphasizes job creation, tax and educational reforms and measures to keep residents in the state as well as attract new ones. Snyder said the plan will “move the ball ahead in a way that impacts real people.”

But getting the ball rolling in the first place wasn’t easy, Snyder said.

He explained there was a point during the race when it seemed so unlikely that he would win the primary race that some polls actually placed him in the margin of error.

“I was at like 2 percent,” Snyder said.

Snyder said he was discouraged during this low point in the campaign because few people were willing to support him publicly.

Nevertheless, Snyder won the Aug. 3 Republican primary with about 36 percent of the vote.

“I didn’t say anything before, but I actually thought we were going to have a big win,” Snyder told the crowd.

Later during the talk Snyder shifted his focus to the University community, which made up the majority of the audience, and called it “one of the few shining stars” left in Michigan.

If elected, Snyder said he plans to implement measures that would help greater numbers of financially underprivileged students attend schools like the University.

“We need to put a priority on getting financial resources to the people that have need,” Snyder said.

Snyder also encouraged current University students to travel outside Ann Arbor and help foster educational growth in struggling cities like Detroit.

“It’s so important to get Detroit back on a positive path to success because Ann Arbor is good, but it’s not good enough,” Snyder said.

Throughout his speech, Snyder compared a good government to an efficient business operation — and himself to the perfect business manager.

“I think I’m one of the first managers running for office in a long time,” Snyder said.

He added, “I’m going in with an attitude of action.”