DETROIT (AP) - Michigan voters, whose state economy began declining earlier and sank deeper than almost any other in the nation, turned Tuesday to a Republican businessman for their next governor, selecting a political outsider who vowed to bring jobs.
Rick Snyder easily beat Democrat Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, after being ahead in the polls since the August primary. With 48 percent of precincts reporting, Snyder had 60 percent of the vote to Bernero's 37 percent, according to unofficial returns tabulated by The Associated Press.
Snyder joined 24 Hour News 8's Susan Shaw on Daybreak Wednesday morning and said the victory "feels great." Watch the video for the complete interview, including what he has on tap for his agenda once he officially takes office.
It was the first governor's race without an incumbent in eight years. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm could not run again because of term limits. It was also the first statewide election since the bankruptcy reorganization of two of Michigan's biggest employers, General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
Snyder, the former president of computer maker Gateway Inc., kicked off his campaign with a Super Bowl ad in which he declared himself "one tough nerd." Bernero fought to stage a surprise win with his pro-middle class, pro-worker agenda.
Eric Toelle, 35, of the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores, said he was a "die-hard Democrat" who voted for President Barack Obama and Granholm. But this time he went for Snyder.
"Let me put it this way: If you're going to build a house, show me the blueprints. You don't need to tell me how bad the bricks are," Toelle said. "It's no secret we are in a horrible economy. Bernero didn't show me the blueprint."
Snyder squeezed past four more conservative GOP politicians in the August primary by appealing to moderates, and polls consistently showed him about 20 points ahead of Bernero.
Still, Bernero sought to stage an upset and campaigned with former President Bill Clinton in Detroit less than two weeks before the election.
Snyder's steady drumbeat of ads highlighted his success in helping launch startup companies in emerging fields and his status as a political outsider. He vowed to rely on that experience to ease the state's economic woes.
Michigan's 13.1 percent unemployment rate is well above the national average and has been among the highest in the U.S. for several years.
Bernero pitched himself as a mayor who has brought jobs and "cranes in the air" to his community while trimming the budget by millions of dollars. The man described as the "angry mayor" talked about his 84-year-old father, a retired autoworker, and vehemently defended autoworkers as GM and Chrysler descended into bankruptcy.
He acknowledged defeat in a speech at a downtown Detroit casino hotel.
"It was a fight, my friends, worth fighting, but it wasn't our time," said Bernero, surrounded by his wife, two daughters and running mate, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence.
Jennifer Cox, 37, a bank teller from Lansing, said she voted for Bernero because of his track record in Lansing.
"I like what he's done with the city so far. He's got a proven record. We need more industry in the state and he's willing to fight for that. He's really fought for what the people want."
Snyder joined Gateway when it was a fledgling computer maker in 1991, becoming president and chief operating officer in January 1996 before leaving management in August 1997. He remained on Gateway's board of directors until the company was sold to Taiwan-based Acer Inc. in 2007, returning for seven months in 2006 as interim CEO.
He has only a short time to craft a budget proposal for the state. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says Michigan faces a $1 billion shortfall in the budget year that starts next Oct. 1. The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council puts the deficit even higher, at $1.5 billion.
Republican Rick Snyder says his election as Michigan's governor signals the start of an era of innovation for a state he says is broken.
Snyder says the state's economy and government have been broken "for too many years." He called for inclusiveness rather than divisiveness.
The former executive at computer maker Gateway Inc. delivered his victory speech Tuesday night at a Detroit hotel after his strong win over Democratic Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.
He thanked Bernero, who called Snyder to offer his full support earlier in the evening.
Three third-party candidates also ran.
Tuesday marked the first gubernatorial race since 2002 with no incumbent and the first since the Michigan economy was rocked by the near-collapse of two automakers.
Associated Press writers Ed White in Grosse Pointe Woods and Tim Martin in Lansing contributed to this report.
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