Running an uphill battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, state Sen. Joe Schwarz (R-Battle Creek) will bring in some high profile help today in the form of a “Straight Talk Express” bus tour around southern Michigan with U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The bus will stop at the Michigan Union today, the last day residents can register to vote.

Paul Wong
John McCain
Paul Wong
John Scwarz

Schwarz faces heavy competition for the GOP nomination from Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus. Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, a moderate-to-liberal Republican, like Schwarz, who has endorsed the state senator, will also make an appearance.

“It’s a big push. It’s crunch time as far as the election,” Schwarz campaign manager Gary Haulmark said. “We’re trying to push the grassroots effort.”

Schwarz and McCain have known each other since McCain first came to Michigan in 1999 as part of his 2000 presidential bid. With most Republican leaders behind then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Schwarz was one of the few Michigan politicians to meet McCain during that trip.

Schwarz eventually ended up chairing McCain’s campaign and shepherding through his primary win here in February 2000 although McCain ended up dropping out of the race a month later. Schwarz said he and McCain are similar in that they are around the same age, they both served in Vietnam and they both believe honesty is an essential part of communicating with voters.

“We share a lot of positions on issues, but the biggest component of the political life we share is the fact that you tell people the truth always, even if the truth is painful,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz plans to emphasize honesty at tomorrow’s rally in relation to the current state budget crisis. Revenues have fallen due to the recession and almost all programs except higher education and K-12 education were cut for the 2002-2003 fiscal year. Yet, it is still unsure how much tuition will be when the University Board of Regents vote on next year’s tuition rates next week.

Schwarz feels the state must not allow scheduled .1 percent reductions in the state income tax and single business tax to go into effect in order to prevent cuts in state programs, which include funding for Michigan’s public universities and community. Posthumus has said the state should allow those cuts to go into effect.

“We’re going to be emphasizing that you have to tell people the truth about the budget,” Schwarz said.

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