Heated Michigan Governor's Primary Down To The Wire

July 7, 2008 - 7:29 PM

(CNSNews.com) - On Tuesday, the long political battle for the Michigan governor's office will end for two of three Democratic candidates and one of two Republican candidates.

Three-term Republican Gov. John Engler is barred from seeking another term.

Vying for the Democratic nomination are Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, former Gov. James Blanchard and U.S. Rep. David Bonior.

A Detroit News poll released Friday of 600 likely Democratic primary election voters showed Granholm leading her two opponents with 38 percent to Bonior's 22 percent and Blanchard's 20 percent.

But the poll indicated that 20 percent of those polled remained undecided. The Detroit News poll was the first one showing Bonior edging ahead of Blanchard.

A woman has never been at the top of any party ticket in Michigan's history.

Granholm, according to the poll, is running strong among men and women as well as the Detroit suburbs and union households.

Charles Elder, a political science professor at Detroit's Wayne State University, said he thinks a big factor in Granholm's appeal is that she is a "fresh face."

"She's something of a new, fresh face, despite [the fact] that she has been in state office (as attorney general) for four years," said Elder. She "doesn't suffer the image of being an ancient politico," he added.

"Another thing I think is attractive is that she is a female candidate. She's very articulate and that appeals to women as a major constituency. Her stands on women's issues like family, children and women's rights makes her very attractive to females in the state," Elder said.

"She doesn't have a lot of political baggage that some other candidates have," he concluded.

Granholm is a pro-abortion candidate and opposes liberalizing gun laws. She favors tougher enforcement of environmental laws and wants to hike the age at which high school students can drop out of school.

Bonior, who has a mostly pro-life record on abortion, says he wants to improve the environment and protect wages and benefits of working people. He has long waged a battle in the House to raise the minimum wage.

Bill Ballenger, editor and publisher of "Inside Michigan Politics," a leading state political publication, said he believes Bonior's pro-life stance could work to his advantage with Michigan Democrats.

"In this race, both of his opponents are pro-choice, so they would split up the pro-choice vote. Bonior is not an unreasonable pro-life guy. He basically has supported a lot of pro-choice things. I don't think he is that far out on the issue from the mainstream Democratic voter, and if he is a little bit off on that issue, he is right on board on just about everything else," said Ballenger.

Many analysts see Blanchard, who is also pro-abortion as a pro-business Democrat who has promised to reorganize government and create thousands of new jobs in the private sector.

Blanchard was Michigan's governor during the 1980s, before Engler defeated him. He has been working as an attorney after serving as America's ambassador to Canada.

Ballenger said that despite Blanchard's energetic campaign, the former governor will likely finish third.

"The real reason he (Blanchard) decided to run is because (U.S. Sen. Carl) Levin decided not to retire from the Senate. Blanchard is a terminal political junkie," said Ballenger.

Michigan Secretary of State Candice Miller told the Detroit News she expected about 22 percent of Michigan voters would go to the polls Tuesday.

Granholm has received endorsements from the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan chapter of the Teamsters Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Bonior has received endorsements from the United Auto Workers union and the Michigan AFL-CIO.

Granholm, according to newspaper reports, has raised more than $4 million in her campaign, more than of any of her opponents.

Many predict that if Granholm wins the Democratic nomination she will succeed Republican John Engler in January.
The Democratic winner faces the winner of Tuesday's Republican primary between Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus and state Sen. John "Joe" Schwarz of Battle Creek.

Many analysts believe Posthumus will receive the GOP nomination.

Before becoming lieutenant governor, Posthumus, a farmer, was state Senate majority leader. He vows, if elected, to enact no new taxes and fight to keep jobs in the state. Posthumus also promises to get a constitutional amendment enacted to make it tougher for politicians to raise taxes.

Posthumus has endorsements from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, The Detroit News, Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners.

Schwarz, who has been the Michigan Senate president pro tempore since 1993, said the state's gas tax should be raised as much as eight cents a gallon in order to improve roads. He also favors delaying scheduled reductions in the state's income and business taxes because Michigan's economy is still not on stable ground.

Schwarz has been endorsed by Republican U.S. senator and former GOP presidential candidate John McCain and former liberal Republican Gov. William Milliken.

According to Ballenger, Granholm is favored to win both the primary and the November election, "so it's not going to be any surprise if she is elected. At this point, the surprise would be if she is not."

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