In a poll of students conducted by The Daily earlier this month, a majority said they were unfamiliar with Michigan's gubernatorial candidates this year. The Daily talked to several major candidates to help provide a guide.
The poll was sent to 500 students. Of the respondents, 32 percent of students said they are most likely to vote for Abdul El-Sayed, while 48 percent of respondents said they were unsure whom they would vote for.
Over 72 percent of the students reported they were registered to vote in the state of Michigan and 70 percent said they are planning on voting in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
Fifty-two percent of students said they were not familiar at all with the candidates, while 0 percent said they were very familiar.
Of the respondents, 10 percent said they would vote for a political party different than the one they voted for in the 2016 presidential election, suggesting either they do not like the direction their party is going in or they expect different policies for local government. Meanwhile, 74 percent of students said they would vote for the same party as they did in the presidential election, while 16 percent remained unsure.
Gretchen Whitmer (D)
Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer is currently the Democratic frontrunner, polling at 37 percent, tied to Republican frontrunner Bill Schuette, according to the Detroit Free Press in September.
According to campaign finance reports released Wednesday, Whitmer’s campaign holds $1.5 million in bank balance, following $768,000 raised this quarter for a total of $2.3 million raised this election cycle.
Whitmer began her political career in Michigan’s Congress, serving for six years in the House of Representative and serving in the state Senate since. In 2010 she was chosen to be the state Senate democratic leader, making her the first female leader of a party caucus in the Senate. However, Whitmer said it isn’t her gender that sets her apart from other candidates, but her work ethic.
“More than anything, what we need is real leadership who knows how to get things done in Michigan, and I think that sets me apart in a way that's not as obvious as gender, but it certainly sets me apart from the rest of the field,” Whitmer said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do here in our state and getting things done … there's no time to wait. I’m really excited because I think it's been a long time since Michiganders have had someone in their corner.”
LSA senior Collin Kelly, who works on Whitmer’s campaign, reiterated Whitmer’s work ethic and said her work in Michigan’s Senate has produced tangible change.
“Ever since I saw Gretchen Whitmer speak at a College Democrats meeting last winter, I knew she was someone I wanted to work for and help get elected. The way she talked about her ideas for Michigan and how much of her life she had spent fighting for us was so genuine and inspiring,” Kelly said. “She's already walked the walk. She expanded Medicaid, raised the minimum wage and stood up for unions while in the minority in the Michigan legislature.”
Whitmer said one of the biggest goals in her campaign involves making education more affordable. While in the Senate, Whitmer authored Michigan 2020, legislation that would pay for every Michigan student’s four-year university tuition by closing corporate tax loopholes.
“I spent my whole life here in Michigan and I am a proud product of our public schools. I even taught at the University of Michigan. I know that one thing that levels the playing field is a great education,” Whitmer said. “I recognize how critical it is that it's affordable for students in Michigan. If we would have passed it, Bernie (Sanders) would have been talking about what we did in Michigan instead of his own plan.”
Kelly agreed that her education policy sets her apart from other candidates, considering how long she’s been fighting for a change in policy.
“As a first-generation college student, her education policy shows how committed she is to students. She was introducing plans to make college free for Michiganders before Bernie Sanders made it a national issue,” Kelly said. “She's always been in our corner, and I couldn't be more excited to help make her our next governor.”
Bill Schuette (R)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is running for the Republican nomination, emphasizing improving the economy through tax cuts and increasing jobs, which he said would ultimately keep young people in the state.
Currently the Republican frontrunner, Schuette was endorsed by President Donald Trump in September via tweet.
The original tweet garnered national attention after Trump misspelled the candidate's name.
In terms of fundraising, Schuette is also leading his opponents, with a reported $2 million on hand, following a $1.2 million quarter and $3.2 million this cycle.
The economy is a central focus of Schuette’s campaign, as he sees improving it as a key way to solve many of Michigan’s problems. He emphasized the need to continue recovering from the policies of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who served from 2003 to 2011.
“Michigan suffered on the lost decade of Jennifer Granholm, where we lost jobs, we lost paychecks, we lost people, a million people … left our state because of the devastating economic policies of Jennifer Granholm. Higher taxes, higher rules, more regulations. We hit bottom. Michigan was on life support.”
University of Michigan lecturer Rusty Hills, director of public affairs for Schuette, said Schuette has proven his competence regarding many issues he has attacked as attorney general, including human trafficking, supplying rape test kits and his anti-bullying program.
“I think he’s doing an outstanding job as attorney general, and the most important thing you can do for future office is a good job in the office you hold,” Hills said. “So on a wide range of issues, I feel like Bill Schuette’s done a great job as attorney general. I think that will help him in this race for governor.”
Through reviving the economy, Schuette said, young people will want to stay in the state rather than leave.
“I want Michigan to be a growth state, a paycheck state and a job state. I want to help usher in a new era of prosperity and opportunity and jobs in Michigan. In order to achieve that, we need to have a jobs governor and that’ll be my focus day in and day out,” Schuette said. “And we need to … pick up the pace, and we need to be a growth state, where there’s more opportunity. So when you’re done going to college, I want you to stay here in Michigan.”
Schuette said going forward, several projects he aims to do to include achieve the growth he sees is possible in Michigan. First, rolling back of the tax increases put forward while Granholm was governor to give “every Michiganian a pay raise,” and second, enacting auto insurance reform, as Michigan’s is one of the highest in the nation.
“I’m not running for governor to manage Michigan’s decline,” Schuette said. “Those are two key economic issues that would send a signal: Come to Michigan, stay in Michigan, because we’re going to be a state where you get to keep more of what you earn, and the government will take less of what you make.”
Regarding why college students should vote for Schuette, Hills said he’s focused on bringing jobs to Michigan.
“Well, the first argument that I would make to any college student at the University of Michigan, or any other school, college or university, is that Bill’s going to be focused on jobs and that’s the first thing that everyone wants to find once they graduate,” he said.
Thirty-two-year-old University alum Abdul El-Sayed is making a run for Michigan governor in 2018, with focuses on public schools, investing in infrastructure and an equal-opportunity economy. The former executive director of the Detroit Department of Health was the youngest health commissioner in a major U.S. city, most notably providing free eye glasses to students in Detroit Public Schools.
“I believe in a Michigan that is more equitable, more sustainable than the state we live in now,” El-Sayed said. “And in that Michigan, any child, regardless of the color of their skin, and where they are from, what their parents do, have the opportunity to achieve access to a dignified life that that child can have confidence in growing up.”
According to most recent reports, El-Sayed’s campaign has $900,000 in the bank after raising $612,000 this quarter and $1.6 million this election cycle, falling behind his main Democratic contenders. El-Sayed is notably popular on campus, with 32 percent of students surveyed by The Daily supporting him, the highest of any candidate.
LSA junior Shelby Steverson thinks El-Sayed will provide what Michigan needs in the governor’s office, between his experience in government and his vision for the state.
“I believe Abdul would be a fantastic governor for Michigan. His love for the state and the people throughout the state is shown in everything he does,” Steverson said. “He did an excellent job rebuilding the Detroit Health Department, including incredible success with providing free eye exams and glasses to students in Detroit. In the current political climate with the White House administration, Abdul provides a breath of fresh air.”
El-Sayed spoke about wanting to invest in people by providing them with an economy that has well-paying jobs with benefits. He also said he wants to provide a free college education to Michigan residents so everyone can have the opportunity to attend college.
“Number one, I want to move forward, I’d love to get us to a free college education for every Michigander, but the first step towards getting there is making sure that every young person whose family makes under $100,000 a year has access to a tuition-free public education in the state of Michigan,” El-Sayed said.
While raising the funds to provide a free education is something that blocks it from becoming reality, El-Sayed pointed to several places where the revenue could be generated in Michigan.
“But we also have to think of alternative means of growing revenue, and for me, that means doing some pretty basic things,” El-Sayed said. “Number one, I think the state has had such a poor financial rating in bonds in ways that I think being able to pay for programs like this, that would be a great solution. Number two, being able to legalize and tax something like marijuana, which is estimated to bring in over $125 million a year. And then number three, I think we need to be thinking about what it means to move forward with a progressive tax system in the state.”
An important part of El-Sayed’s platform is keeping college students in the state after they graduate by investing in the infrastructure that will make young people to want to live here.
“I think, to me, we have to reclaim our leadership in transportation, we have to be leaders in renewable energy, we have to be leaders in (medical technology) and health care, and those are the kind of jobs that young people graduating from college are interested in,” El-Sayed said. “We have to rebuild schools for kids here in Michigan, so our young people choose to stay here in Michigan.”
El-Sayed announced his candidacy in March of this year and has since campaigned around the state, including at the University of Michigan earlier this month at a town hall hosted by the University’s chapter of College Democrats.
Patrick Colbeck (R)
State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, is running for the Republican nomination. Colbeck received his bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering from the University but decided he no longer wanted to be on the sidelines of political unrest.
“Anyone taking a step back and looking at our government knows that something is broke. If there's one thing that engineers love to do, it's fix problems. So my wife and I, a while back, were looking at what was going on and we thought, ‘Well, we can either look at the TV and radio or go out and do something about it,’” Colbeck said. “We decided to go out and do something about it.”
Colbeck had not filed his finance reports by 5:30 p.m .on Wednesday.
Colbeck said his candidacy centers on what it means to become an American, saying it is his goal to come up with solutions that benefit everybody. He said a lot of current politicians pick winners and losers, but unlike them, he wants to better all families and businesses by focusing on getting rid of the state income tax and implementing free market health care reform.
“What I want to do is shake the battle field and start looking out for the best interest of all our citizens,” Colbeck said. “It might take a little bit longer, it might be a little bit harder, but in the end it's better for all of our families and businesses. People are just looking for someone who is looking out for their best interest and honoring their oath of office.”
Colbeck, who has served in Michigan’s senate for seven years, said his dedication to his campaign promises separates him from the other candidates.
“Usually I think everyone campaigns pretty well, and they say all the right things in their campaign literature, but when they get into office they do something completely different. I haven’t done that,” Colbeck said. “I actually did exactly what I said I would do, and I’ll do that as governor.”
Shri Thanedar (D)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar is an author and entrepreneur who wants to focus his campaign on progressive ideals that will help more than people at “the top.”
Having moved from poverty in India to the United States, Thanedar, a current Ann Arbor resident, went on the get his bachelor’s of science, master’s of science and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry, along with an MBA in management, and did his postdoctoral work at the University. Though he has no political background, Thanedar said science is an integral part of the political process.
“I am a scientist and today there are a number of issues that really need scientific background. It is important that our leaders understand climate change, for instance,” Thanedar said. “Our roads and our bridges are falling apart. That's engineering and science. So it is just as important that our leaders understand science as they understand the legislative process.”
Thanedar also said his business background will be important to his campaign. Having worked on his own business for 26 years, Thanedar's business ventures were once valued at $132 million. To fund his campaign, Thanedar sold 60 percent of his chemical-testing company for a $3.3 million price tag, making him the leader in gubernatorial funding. He most recently reported a balance of nearly $5.7 million, after lending his campaign an additional $2.7 million and raising $1,500 from other sources.
However, Thanedar stressed he is unlike big business people, mentioning President Donald Trump, and is instead more of a small business person.
“When I start my businesses, I am employee number one and I build them and create hundreds more employees,” Thanedar said. “And I bring a compassion with me, having lived in poverty. We need to start with the pocketbook issues, and I am the only candidate in this race who has created jobs.”
Despite this, Thanedar mentioned Gov. Rick Snyder, who campaigned on running the government like a business, where he made his wealth, and said you cannot run a state like a business. He said he hopes to make community college free and make four-year colleges free for any family that has an annual salary of $120,000 or less, saying education is not a commodity.
“When I lived in India my family fell into poverty. I worked small jobs to help my family. Education was a ladder for my success,” Thanedar said. “That ladder is broken for too many people today. I want to empower people to do good for themselves.”