DETROIT — “We have come a long way,” Republican governor-elect Rick Snyder told a packed crowd at the Michigan GOP watch party in the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel here last night. The Ann Arbor businessman addressed the watch party attendees after the crowd chanted “We want Rick!”
Snyder, who branded himself as a political outsider with the business acumen needed to fix Michigan, will be heading to the governor’s mansion come January after routing Democrat and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Bernero conceded the race at around 10 p.m. last night.
“The people of Michigan have spoken,” Snyder told the crowd last night. “It’s time to re-invent Michigan.”
In replacing Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Snyder is ushering in a new era of Republican rule in the state. Michigan’s last Republican governor was John Engler, who was in office from 1993 to 2002.
During his concession speech at the MGM Grand hotel here, Bernero said he fought a good fight to protect the American dream, which he believes is in jeopardy.
“I’ll keep fighting for people on Main Street because those are the values we all share,” Bernero said. “It’s where I come from, and it’s what I’ll always do. The fight for the Michigan of opportunity goes on for everyone.”
During his victory speech, Snyder thanked his family, those who helped run his campaign and the citizens of Michigan.
“For me this is much more than an election,” Snyder said.
Snyder also lauded his opponent’s efforts, saying that Bernero “ran a hard-fought race.”
The University alum and Ann Arbor businessman ran for governor after his wife Sue urged him to enter the race in order to help fix the downtrodden state. Throughout his campaign, Snyder emphasized his lack of political experience saying that his business background would help him bring the innovative outlook needed to fix Lansing — a notion that evidently resonated with voters today.
“I got involved and went after it because I don’t believe career politicians were the right answer, and we needed to have an outsider come in and bring new, fresh ideas,” Snyder told The Michigan Daily earlier this month.
During his speech late last night, Snyder said there are three steps his administration needs to take to start fixing Michigan: ushering in positive viewpoints, developing a plan and taking action.
“It is time for a new era,” Snyder said. “It is time for the era of innovation.”
As part of this innovative approach, Snyder said that during his time in office, he plans to look beyond party lines and partisan politics to focus on what is truly best for the state.
“It’s time to drop the labels … of party, of ideology, of geography,” Snyder told the crowd. “To make this work there is only one label that matters. That label is Michigander.”
Before Snyder took the stage, newly-elected lieutenant governor, Brian Calley, made a speech echoing Snyder’s sentiments.
“We’re going to throw aside class warfare, racial and ethnic divides and even Republican and Democrat,” said Calley, who was Snyder’s running mate. “Michigan’s problems today are so big, we need (everyone) going in the same direction.”
Calley added that he is looking forward to taking on the challenge of fixing the problems of the state alongside Snyder.
“This is Michigan’s one chance and what an opportunity it is,” Calley said.
After graduating from the University with his undergraduate, MBA and JD degrees, Snyder went on to work at a variety of companies including Gateway. He ultimately became the computer company’s president and chief operating officer. Snyder was also involved in economic initiatives in Michigan, including serving as the first chairman of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in 1999. In addition, Snyder helped launch business incubator Ann Arbor SPARK and HandyLab, a company that develops medical technologies.
Snyder, who first introduced himself to the public as “one tough nerd,” said in his speech last night that he aims to create an economy in the state that can compete on the global level, which will in turn lead to a better quality of life for Michiganders.
“We are truly blessed in this state with some of the world’s best natural resources,” Snyder said.
He also said revitalizing Detroit and other cities in the state is an essential part of getting Michigan back on track.
“It is fundamental that we restore our central cities,” he said.
Snyder told the Daily during his campaign last month that he would bring the “new approach and attitude” necessary to revolutionize Michigan.
“Coming from the business world there’s a lot of things that have been really successful there that we should be doing in government,” Snyder told the Daily. “The goal of government is not to make a profit, but I believe the government should be showing a positive return on investments from citizens and society and that’s true of a lot of business in America.”
During his campaign, Snyder said that if elected, he would work to establish a growing job market amid difficult economic times to reverse the state’s “brain drain.” Snyder hopes to create jobs by reducing taxes for small businesses. In order to do this, Snyder said in his speech last night that the Michigan Business Tax needs to be revoked.
“The comeback in Michigan is not going to be a few big out-of-state companies,” Snyder told the Daily last month. “It’s going to be Michiganders creating and growing small businesses.”
When Snyder takes office in January, he said he plans to make vast changes within the state in order get Michigan working again and to embark upon a completely new system of government.
“It is time for bureaucracy to go away,” Snyder said in his speech tonight. “It is time for an independent government, and what does that government look like? It’s simple: It’s costumer service government. It views the citizens as a customer.”
Snyder’s son, Jeff, wrote in a text message to the Daily last night that he has enjoyed campaigning for his father and he appreciates the support Michigan citizens have shown him and his family.
“It’s been a really exciting experience, and we are really thankful for all the support we have received ever since my dad announced his candidacy,” he wrote.
Supporters here at the watch party said they were excited to see Snyder’s fresh approach to fixing the state.
Middleville, Mich. resident Cathy Williamson, 68, called Snyder “a really good person,” who she has seen since Snyder owns a lake house near her daughter on Gun Lake.
“When he was building his home many years ago, he asked the different contractors who would donate 10 percent of their profits back to charity,” Williamson said. “How many times do you hear that?”
Health Behavior Prof. Victor Strecher, who was also at the watch party, said Snyder’s campaign mirrors his business career. Stretcher, who launched a web-based health company with Snyder, said the story of their company — which was eventually so successful it was bought by Johnson & Johnson — shows Snyder’s ability to persevere.
“When we first started the company, everybody told us that we wouldn’t make it, that it wouldn’t work,” Stecher said. “And there’s a real parallel to Rick’s campaign. A year ago nobody thought that he could do this. There was a really small number of people who really believed in Rick, knew he would become the next governor.”
LSA freshmen Ansley Semack and Matt Jones, who were here tonight, said that Snyder’s victory was a much-needed push for the state toward Republican sentiment and ideals.
“This is usually a blue state, but the American people, and more specifically the people of Michigan, have shown that they are frustrated and they do want change,” said Jones, a member of College Republicans. “So we are turning not only the governor, but possibly the House of Representatives and the state Senate.
Semack said she’s happy to see Michigan and the rest of the country moving in a Republican direction.
“I’m excited that people realized we needed change and actually went out and acted on it this time,” Semack said. “After 2008, everything fell apart, so it’s been a long time coming.”
— Daily Staff Reporters Stephanie Berliant contributed reporting from Detroit and Elyana Twiggs contributed reporting from Ann Arbor.