Former U.S. ambassador announces candidacy for regent

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 8:53pm

Former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia, Ron Weiser  announced his decision to run for University of Michigan Regent in a press release Monday.

Weiser, a Republican, highlighted issues of tuition as his main concern. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, he emphasized that his business background would provide him with an advantage in fulfilling the goal of reduced tuition rates. Weiser founded McKinley Associates Inc., a prominent real estate investment firm, in 1968. He served as chair and CEO until 2001.

“I think this is a great university,” Weiser said. “It’s well run, but there’s always room for improvement, and having a business perspective is an added perspective that they don’t have right now.”

Currently one businesswoman, Denise Illitch (D), serves on the Board of Regents — she is president of Ilitch Enterprises, owner of Denise Ilitch Designs, owner and publisher of Ambassador Magazine.

Both regents whose terms are expiring at the end of this year, Ilitch and Laurence Deitch (D) have not yet announced if they will run for re-election on the Board.

In addition to focusing on tuition costs, Wesier said he opposes policies that provide in-state tuition to undocumented students. Currently, the University provides in-state tuition to undocumented students. 

“If you’re not a resident of the state, why should you be entitled to resident tuition?” Weiser said.

Weiser ran for a seat on the board in 2014, when he was defeated by Mike Behm (D) and Kathy White (D). In December 2014, Weiser donated $50 million to the University, which motivated regents to approve renaming Dennison Building to Weiser Hall. He has donated $95.9 million in total to the University. 

This year, Weiser is campaigning on a platform of conservative values. He has a firm background in the state Republican Party, serving as the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 2009 to 2011.

Weiser has contributed to the campus and to the national and global stage in several ways throughout his career. From 2001 to 2005, he served as President George W. Bush's ambassador to Slovakia. Upon his return, Weiser established and funded the University’s Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, emphasizing the importance of freedom and democracy. 

Weiser previously planned to run again for regent in 2012, a year after being elected to the Republican National Committee as finance chairman. However, he said in a press release that because he was determined to prevent Proposal 2 from passing, he devoted his energy to the GOP’s national effort to challenge the measure instead. 

Proposal 2, a proposal amendment to Michigan's constitution on the state ballor in 2012, was widely favored among state unions, but was ultimately voted down by 58 percent . The measure would have made the right to collective bargaining for labor unions constitutional, reducing restrictions on union efforts to negotiate working conditions. Essentially, it would have removed legal barriers to join unions and bargain collectively. In the process, however, approximately 170 laws would have been invalidated.

Weiser said he believes his experience in business and government, both locally and internationally, has prepared him for a position as University regent. He said he is proud of being a Wolverine and hopes to better serve the community.

“We really are a world university, and keeping our quality of education is really important,” Weiser said. “I mean it when I say I’m a proud alumni.”

No other candidates have declared for the two open seats. Both will be filled as part of the statewide elctions in November.