GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - The two Democrats hoping to become Michigan's next governor drewsome sharp contrasts for voters in a head-to-head debate Monday.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and House Speaker Andy Dillontraded jabs about the economy and each other's prospects of fixingit in a debate sponsored and televised by WOOD-TV from a GrandValley State University campus.
Bernero attacked Dillon's record as House speaker, sayinghe's contributed to policies that have left Michigan with budgetproblems and high unemployment.
Bernero called Dillon's record "abysmal" and said a change isneeded at the state Capitol.
"I'd start by cutting the Legislature (and) making that apart-time operation, since that's how they operate," Bernero said.
Dillon defended his record and got in a few digs at Bernero,questioning his record as Lansing mayor -- including budget andjob-creation numbers.
"There's no question there's going to be a clear choice forvoters on Aug. 3," Dillon said. "You can hear a lot from the mayorabout what he wants to do, but he's not real clear about theparticulars about how he's going to do it."
Both Dillon and Bernero have a lot of work to do to makethemselves better known among voters.
Dillon led Bernero 34 percent to 24 percent in a pollreleased late last week by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA. But bothcandidates have plenty of room for improvement because 42 percentof the likely 400 Democratic voters surveyed by phone June 12-15were undecided as the Aug. 3 primary approaches.
The poll conducted for WOOD TV had a margin of error of plusor minus 4.9 percentage points.
About half the likely voters in the latest EPIC-MRA surveysaid they didn't recognize Dillon's name. Nearly two-thirds didn'trecognize Bernero's name.
Bernero has received endorsements from the Michigan AFL-CIOand the state's largest teachers union, the Michigan EducationAssociation.
"I'm in the mainstream of the Democratic Party," Bernerosaid. "I'm not sure where (Dillon) is."
Dillon said he has helped pass energy-related legislation andincentives that have boosted advanced vehicle batterymanufacturing, with the House led by Democrats and the Senate ledby Republicans. While Bernero says Dillon is part of the statusquo, Dillon says he has been challenging it during his legislativecareer while working in a bipartisan fashion.
"The people of this state deserve us to work together,"Dillon said. "After all, we're all in the same boat here. Itdoesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat. It doesn'tmatter if you come from the east side of the state or the west sideof the state."
Dillon has collected labor endorsements from the MichiganBuilding and Construction Trades Council and the Michigan RegionalCouncil of Carpenters & Millwrights and Iron Workers, amongothers.
Bernero and Dillon are among the candidates seeking toreplace Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who must leave office atthe end of this year because of term limits.
Republicans running for governor include Oakland CountySheriff Mike Bouchard, Attorney General Mike Cox, state Sen. TomGeorge, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and businessman Rick Snyder. Allexcept Snyder are scheduled to participate in a Republican debatehosted by WOOD-TV on Thursday.
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