It''s (finally) official: Posthumus enters race for governor

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published September 5, 2001

LANSING, Mich. (AP) Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus has confirmed what just about everybody already knew: He"s running for governor next year.

"It"s time to take those first steps," Posthumus said yesterday.

The Alto Republican said his campaign will concentrate on the "three Es" education, the economy and the environment. Gov. John Engler, who made Posthumus his running mate during his bid for a third term in 1998, cannot run again because of term limits.

"Clearly, there"s going to be a change no matter what," Posthumus said. "I"m going to be that change."

The lieutenant governor has Engler"s backing and is considered the leading contender for the 2002 GOP gubernatorial nomination. State Sen. John Schwarz of Battle Creek and Troy businessman Ed Hamilton also a candidate for the U.S. Senate are the other Republicans in the race.

Posthumus told a group of his aides and supporters at a picnic Tuesday that he intends to run next year. He has not yet filed the required paperwork to set up a candidate committee or made a formal announcement. But he has been working for months behind the scenes lining up donors and supporters.

"There wasn"t much surprise, but there was a lot of enthusiasm" for his remarks Tuesday, Posthumus spokesman Matthew Resch said yesterday.

Posthumus operates a farm in Alto in southeastern Kent County. He was elected to the state Senate in 1982 and served as Senate majority leader from 1991 until his election as lieutenant governor. He is married and has four children.

He plans to kick off his campaign with a formal announcement this fall. He said he faces a long road in running for governor and wants to continue the policies begun under Engler.

Posthumus caused a ruckus in political circles two weeks ago when he withdrew his support for Senate Majority Leader Dan DeGrow"s bid for attorney general.

He said DeGrow wasn"t working hard enough to win the nomination. DeGrow, a Port Huron Republican who has worked with Posthumus for 20 years, denied the allegations and said he"s staying in the race. He switched his support in the gubernatorial race from Posthumus to Schwarz.

Although Posthumus is considered likely to win the GOP nomination, he could face a tough fight next November.

A February poll by EPIC/MRA of Lansing showed Posthumus losing in matchups with Democratic candidates Jennifer Granholm, who"s now attorney general, or former Gov. James Blanchard. Posthumus was about even in the poll with Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Bonior.

Democratic Sens. Alma Wheeler Smith of Salem Township and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township also are running.

Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, said Posthumus should be worried about his weak showing in the polls.

"I think everybody feels he"s a distinct underdog in the general election," Ballenger said. "It"s an open seat, and all things being equal you"d think he"d be in a more dominant position than he is."

State Democratic Party spokesman Dennis Denno said Posthumus "is pretty out of touch with the working families of Michigan" and blasted his support for school vouchers.

"Here"s a guy who"s against the environment and public education. I don"t think the people of Michigan will want him as governor," Denno said.

But state GOP spokesman Sage Eastman said Posthumus can campaign on his record in the Senate and Engler administration of improving schools, cutting taxes and creating new, higher-paying jobs in the state.

"Voters will say, What"s your plan to keep Michigan moving forward?"" Eastman said. "Republicans have the benefit of saying, We"ve done that for the last decade."