Ypsilanti, MI –
Rick Snyder may be Michigan's most-well known nerd. He's paid for that notoriety out of his own pocket as he self-funds his campaign for the governor. Snyder is running as an anti-politician. He hopes his background in business will give him an edge over the elected officials who are also seeking the Republican nomination.
Rick Snyder's career includes a stint as president of the Gateway computer company. Snyder did not have a well-known political name when he decided to run for governor. But he did have money - millions of dollars. And he was willing to spend it.
He boosted his profile by airing TV ads that ended with this tagline:
"Rick Snyder for Michigan, He's one tough nerd."
Snyder says his experience in the business world is what Michigan needs now as the state wrestles with the nation's second-highest unemployment rate. His critics say otherwise -- that Snyder outsourced jobs while he was with Gateway. Snyder says that's not true.
"I'm a job creator," Snyder insists. "I've been creating jobs in Mihcigan, I've created them in other states and people are just making that up because they want to keep me out of office. So I'm here to create more jobs and stay on focus."
Snyder is not without political ties. In 1999, Governor John Engler named him to be the first chairman of the board of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He currently serves on the executive committee of Ann Arbor Spark, a regional economic development group.
Washtenaw County Commissioner Mark Ouimet serves on Spark's executive committee with Snyder. Ouimet says Snyder has built on the region's ties to the University of Michigan, and knows how to create successful partnerships between government and private enterprise.
"Rick has done I think an excellent job of pulling the university, the public private piece together to work hand in glove to create opportunities in Washtenaw County," says Ouimet.
Part of Snyder's plan to, as he puts it, "reinvent" Michigan calls for a flat rate corporate tax to replace the Michigan Business Tax. Snyder says he's also skeptical of the tax incentives the state uses to attract jobs and business investment, even though he once chaired the agency that recommends them.
But Snyder's business background did not win him the backing of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which instead endorsed Attorney General Mike Cox, one of Snyder's four rivals for the Republican nomination.
Chamber president Rich Studley says Michigan needs a governor with some government experience. Studley also says Snyder refused to answer the Chamber's candidate questionnaire.
"I've met Mr. Snyder," Studley says. "He's a nice person, he's obviously had a lot of success in the private sector, but he chose not to participate in our process. So basically he took himself out of consideration for support by the Michigan Chamber."
Snyder says he won't fill out questionnaires or accept special interest donations.
He says he won't make promises to single-issue groups that might hinder his efforts to turn around Michigan's economy.
"The important thing is we have the best governor, that is representing all of people of the state of Michigan," he says.
But refusing to fill out questionnaires also means Snyder has not answered questions that might alienate some elements of the Republican Party, especially on abortion and stem cell research. Snyder says he's more focused on fixing the state's economy than social issues.
"I don't put them high on my agenda," says Snyder. "The way I look at it is they are important issues to many people, but they tend to be devisive issues, and then you look at the economy today. We've lost a million jobs. We need to focus in on our economy and getting our economy going, and the other nice thing is if you get our economy going in a positive way, you constructively address a lot of social issues."
Snyder is a favorite of many in the Republican Party's moderate wing, including former governor William Milliken, who has endorsed him. Snyder's strategy also includes reaching out to Democrats and independents to try and convince them to vote for "the nerd" in the Republican primary.
Election 2010 - WKAR
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