Updated: Wednesday, 04 Aug 2010, 11:28 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 03 Aug 2010, 9:11 PM EDT
DETROIT (AP) - Democrat Virg Bernero and Republican Rick Snyder won their party's nominations for Michigan governor Tuesday, setting up a fall showdown between a populist, labor-backed candidate and a political newcomer who spent millions of his own money in the primary race.
Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, easily defeated House Speaker Andy Dillon of suburban Detroit. Snyder, a former computer executive, beat four GOP opponents with far more political experience.
"Obviously, the state is not a business. You can't, as a CEO, tell the Legislature what to do," said John Manchester, 65, a Snyder supporter from Saugatuck. "But his thoughts, his ideas and his information strike me as being vital to what we have here, as opposed to a lot of empty promises and business as usual."
Many voters cited Michigan's ravaged economy and leadership as critical to their primary choices in the state's most wide-open gubernatorial race in decades. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm couldn't run again because of term limits.
"The good news: We did it," Bernero, 46, declared at a Detroit hotel after stepping to a microphone with the "Rocky" theme playing.
"Working people count. Manufacturing and small businesses matter," he said. "The American dream is worth fighting for. And the Michigan we grew up in, the Michigan that was at the top, is the Michigan that we're ready to fight for today."
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Bernero defeated Dillon 59 percent to 41 percent.
Democrat John Manolis of Dearborn said he voted for Bernero largely because of his support for unions.
"Union's a dirty word, but people don't realize the union wage also pushes everybody else's wage," said Manolis, a 62-year-old who lost his job as a contract employee at the state health department several years ago and has had trouble finding a full-time job.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting in the Republican race, Snyder had 37 percent of the vote over U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who had 27 percent, and state Attorney General Mike Cox, who had 23 percent. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and state Sen. Tom George were far behind.
Snyder, 51, was an executive at Gateway Inc. during the 1990s before turning to private investment. He introduced himself in TV ads as "one tough nerd" and some voters said they liked his lack of political experience. He skipped televised debates with other Republicans and instead held public forums, and even attracted some support from Democrats.
Snyder, who lives near Ann Arbor, had spent about $6 million of his own money on the campaign through mid-July. The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" played as he came out to greet supporters before speaking Tuesday night.
"For people that believe our government works well and that the political system works well, they should vote for the other candidate," he said. "For people who believe our government is broken, our political system is broken, it's time for catalysts -- I want to represent you, someone from the real world."
Snyder wants to replace the main Michigan business tax with a flat 6 percent corporate tax. His support for easing restrictions on embryonic stem cell research has turned off social conservatives.
Bernero wants to change the state's tax structure and open a bank that would make low-interest loans to businesses and college students. He says vacant industrial sites should become hubs for new jobs in green technology.
Union members carried Bernero to victory, said Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney.
"Over the last few weeks, we were able to reach out to over 100,000 people. Our members have held dozens of phone banks staffed by hundreds of volunteers," Gaffney said.
Hoekstra, of Holland, expressed no regret at giving up a safe seat in Congress to run for governor.
"God's got something better in mind," he said.
Cox, of Livonia, who couldn't run again for attorney general because of term limits, urged Republicans to get behind Snyder "and we will have a resurgence and a redemption here in Michigan."
Michigan voters also had contested congressional races in many parts of the state.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Detroit was trailing state Sen. Hansen Clarke in the 13th District. She has been dogged by the legal troubles of her imprisoned son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The field also was packed in three congressional districts in northern and western Michigan where no incumbents were on the ballot.
Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub in Dearborn and Mike Householder, Tim Martin, Kathy Barks Hoffman and Nicquel Terry in Detroit contributed to this report.
Snyder is scheduled for an appearance on 24 Hour News 8 Daybreak at 6:07 a.m. Wednesday.