University gears up for election night

By Chelsea Lane and Garrett Pelican | 10/31/10 6:36pm


Courtesy Photo /
Michigan voters can cast their ballots November 2nd.

As recently as Oct. 19, public opinion research organization Rasmussen Reports recorded that of 500 likely voters surveyed, Snyder’s camp controlled 54 percent and Bernero’s 34 percent. An additional 4 percent preferred other candidates while the remaining 8 percent were undecided.

Grand Valley State University College Republicans Chairman Kyle Smith believes Tuesday should prove an easy victory for Snyder.

“Rick Snyder and his Lt. Gov. candidate Brian Calley, a Grand Valley graduate, have an astonishing lead and should cruise to victory on Election Day,” he said. “Snyder’s strong 10 point plan and ideas to reinvent Michigan seem to be resonating with the voters this year.”

Despite boasting the widest lead in the gubernatorial race so far, Snyder said his camp is “staying on the gas.”

“I don’t take Nov. 2 for granted,” he said. “And also, I’m looking to get as many people fired up for January and beyond as we can because that’s when the hard work will really start. I’m going to need to galvanize the public to help work with the legislature and understand there are new, better ways of doing things. It is time for common sense to show up in Lansing — it’s been missing far too long.”

But GVSU College Democrats President Paul LeBlanc believes the election “is still anyone’s game” and stressed the importance of voter turnout.

“While it’s true that there have been polls conducted that show enthusiasm is lacking in the party, what ultimately matters is what happens in the (Tuesday),” LeBlanc said. “…The level of dedication demonstrated by local campaigns in the Grand Rapids area in making phone calls, putting up yard signs and going door-to-door has been phenomenal.”

The Race and Higher Education

Integral to both candidates’ campaigns is an issue of particular concern to college students- reducing what has become known as the “Brain Drain” in Michigan – the flight of the state’s higher education graduates to more prosperous regions of the country.

Paul Cornish, professor of political science at GVSU, said while the issue is not simple, addressing and resolving the problem will be an important task for whichever candidate wins.

“In contemporary culture in the United States, higher education is seen as being a very important step in being competitive in a contemporary economy,” he said. “But in a contemporary economy you’re expected to travel to where the jobs are, so if there aren’t jobs in Michigan, there’s precious little incentive for well-educated young people to stay in the state.”

Snyder said his solution relies on three tiers of change – fostering an environment friendly to the creation of jobs, reinventing economic development in Michigan’s big cities and the cultivating of a network of mentorships.

In the vein of the first tier, Snyder said there is work to be done in tax and regulatory reform, namely the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax. Snyder plans to replace the tax with a flat tax for all businesses.

As for the second tier, Snyder said the “alarming” flight of Michigan graduates to urban areas in other states has long been an issue of importance.

“The great illustration is a paper did a study that showed there are 70,000 (Michigan State University) and (University of Michigan) alumni in Chicago right now,” he said. “If those people would have been in Detroit and our other cities, what would our economy look like? It would be fundamentally different. “

The latter tier, Snyder said, is one that can be accomplished near term, will not cost taxpayers dollars and played an important role in his career.

“I believe we can ask a lot of people to create mentor relationships and these mentor networks that the government can help coordinate, but it’s people helping people,” he said. “And that’s the best way to aid people because if you build a mentor relationship, your odds of staying here go up dramatically and that’s what kept me in Michigan years ago is people saying they’d mentor my career – they did and it worked out well.”

While Bernero’s education plan focuses largely on K-12 students, he lists providing “stable, predictable funding” to colleges and universities as one of his key planning points and also advocates the restoration of the Michigan Promise grant and increased access to higher education.

“This election is extremely important for college students across the state and nation,” LeBlanc said. “The Democratic Party has a consistent record of passing legislation that has assisted college students in numerous ways, though many probably do not realize that this is the case. In March, the Democratic leadership in the Senate successfully passed a bill that ended a fiscally irresponsible federal program that gave subsidies to private student lenders and instead transferred those funds to the federal student loan programs and the Pell Grant program for low-income students.”

As a result of that legislation, the average Pell Grant will increase by more than $600 throughout the next seven years, saving the federal government $10 billion.

“I have talked to more than a few students who noticed a sudden uptick in the amount of grants and federal loans they were offered this year and they have that bill, passed by the Democratic Senate leadership, to thank,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc also stressed the positive impact Democratic legislation such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health reform bill, have had on students. The stimulus bill increased the average Pell Grant by $500, directed $200 million to work-study programs and extended a $2,500 tax credit for college-related expenses, while the health reform bill allows students to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

“The Democratic Party on a state and federal (level) has therefore demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to college students and higher education and anyone pursuing a college education should take this to heart when making their decisions on election day,” LeBlanc said.

Campaign Funding

A venture capitalist, Snyder has invested $6 million out of pocket into his campaign. Before the Aug. 3 primary election, Snyder had already outspent Bernero sevenfold, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State. In total, Snyder’s campaign has raised $11.5 million and Bernero’s campaign has raised almost $2 million.

Some of Snyder’s biggest financial supporters include the Republican Governors Association, which funded almost $2 million in television advertisements for his campaign, and the Michigan Republican Party, which donated $60,000 to Snyder. Meanwhile, Bernero’s campaign reports demonstrate heavy union support. He has received $20,000 from the Operation Engineers Local 324: $10,000 each from Teamsters 229 and 1038 and $5,000 each from the Michigan Nurses Association and Teamsters 406 and 322.

As of Oct. 23, Snyder’s campaign had $2.3 million on hand whereas Bernero had $167,754 left in his war chest.

Cornish said though the argument can be made that funding contributed to the Republican candidate’s performance so far, Snyder owes a large part of his success to not being a career politician in a society that directs a lot of criticism toward its elected officials.

“This is one time when not being an experienced politician probably helps him define himself in a way that’s going to be attractive to voters,” he said. “Not just as a businessman, but in the way that he’s been able to portray himself as some kind of geek, portray himself as someone who’s been successful in a modern – or shall we say post-modern – economy, so that he has some kind of idea about how things can be transformed in the states towards a new sort of economy. I think that probably has contributed a great deal toward his success.”

Cornish said regardless of which candidate wins, Michigan’s next leader will have to circumvent the impasse between the legislature and executive office that has plagued the state government in recent years.

“The next governor, if they’re going to be successful, is going to have to persuade people to adopt their program and then hope their program works,” Cornish said.

On Election Night

In addition to hitting the polls tomorrow, students can also attend viewing parties and other events around the Grand Rapids area. LeBlanc said the College Democrats are hoping to secure Area 51 in Kirkhof Center for a results viewing party Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the College Republicans will be making what Smith called “a final strong push” at the Kent County Fix Michigan Center, located at 264 Leonard St. NW.

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