DETROIT — Despite losing the race for governor to Republican Rick Snyder, Virg Bernero walked onto the stage at the MGM Grand here last night with the “Rocky” theme song blaring, holding his and his wife’s hands up in the air.
“It was a fight, my friends, worth fighting, and it was a good fight, but it wasn’t ours to win,” Bernero said just minutes after he got off the phone with Snyder.
Bernero, the mayor of Lansing who ran on the Democratic ticket for governor, had called Snyder to congratulate him on winning the race — one of many statewide races taken by Republicans.
In his concession speech at the Michigan Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign watch party, Bernero spoke to many of the issues his campaign focused on including retaining a strong middle class, freezing tuition and bridging partisan gaps.
“We must not root for the failure of the other side,” Bernero said. “We must root for the success of Michigan.”
Throughout his campaign, Bernero contrasted himself with his opponent by focusing on his experience in public office. With a political career that stretches back to high school, Bernero told voters his skills would be necessary for revitalizing the state.
But unfortunately for Bernero, voters decided to send Snyder, the self-described political outsider who made his name as a businessman, to Lansing in January.
Bernero’s campaign platform was centered on rebooting Michigan’s economy, with the slogan “Make Michigan Work Again.” During his campaign, Bernero said, if elected, his focus would be on making Michigan the number-one place in the country to do business. His campaign promises included bringing jobs to Michigan and creating a business-friendly tax structure in the state.
Snyder, too, ran his campaign on the platform of improving Michigan’s economic situation by creating more jobs and getting rid of the Michigan Business Tax in order to help businesses in the state — a move that Bernero has said he also supports.
Bernero also emphasized education as a way to spur economic development. He promised to increase funding to Michigan public universities, prevent tuition increases and bring back the Michigan Promise Scholarship — a program in which 96,000 Michigan college students received $400 to $5,000 to go toward funding their education. The $100-million scholarship program was cut from the state’s budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
In his concession speech, Bernero didn’t say what his future political plans hold, but in an Oct. 25 Michigan Daily article, he said if he lost the race, he would continue as mayor of Lansing.
LSA sophomores Amre Metwally and Asra Najam attended the watch party to support Democratic Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson, who lost the race to Republican Ruth Johnson. The pair said they campaigned for Benson for two months leading up to yesterday’s election. Metwally said he had mixed feelings about the election results.
“Part of me feels let down, which is the natural reaction,” Metwally said. “ … (Bernero) and (Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor) Brenda (Lawrence) have done great things, and they’ll both come back.”
Najam said Bernero’s concession speech reflected his bipartisan approach to uniting Michigan.
“It was a very classy speech,” Najam said. “It’s clear he’s not partisan. He’s on Michigan’s side.”
Throughout the campaign, multiple polls showed Snyder leading Bernero by a large margin. It was reported throughout the gubernatorial race that Snyder was favored to take the seat in large part because of his large personal financial resources. An Oct. 28 Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll showed Bernero trailing Snyder by 18 points. Despite what the polls showed, Bernero remained confident, even yesterday morning, that his campaign would pull through.
When casting his vote yesterday morning, Bernero told reporters, “I was outspent four to one, but we’re winning the ground game,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
In an effort to prevent this Democratic loss, former President Bill Clinton appeared in Detroit on Oct. 24 to show his support for Bernero and to emphasize the importance of electing Democrats in front of a crowd of about 500 people. Clinton did the same for U.S. Congressman John Dingell (D–Mich.) at a rally on campus later the same day. Dingell was re-elected to represent Michigan’s 15th Congressional district last night.