Snyder, Bernero make pitches across Michigan as governor election looms

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Candidates for Michigan governor
Candidates for Michigan governor
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Paul Egan and Karen Bouffard, DETROIT NEWS LANSING BUREAU

The two men running for governor and scores of other candidates spent Halloween day asking for votes with time to campaign running out before Tuesday's election.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder and many of the GOP's choices to run for statewide office stumped in western Michigan, urging supporters not to let up in the face of encouraging public opinion polls.

Virg Bernero, the Democratic candidate for governor, stopped at Detroit churches to shore up his base. He and pastors urged members to get out and vote, and to help others do so.

"On Tuesday, we're going to hear from the people; it's your day," Bernero told the congregation at Greater Grace Temple, an 8,000-member mega-church in Detroit. "We need a governor who is going to work with the president, not against him."

Candidates for local offices and state legislative seats were knocking on doors or had volunteers distributing campaign literature, as were U.S. House candidates. For example, in the 7th District, Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, said he will stop today in all seven counties in the district. His opponent, former Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, knocked on doors and tried to pull ahead from recent poll results showing him slightly behind with Schauer in one of the state's most politically divided districts. Walberg is also set to tour the 7th District today.

Snyder spoke to about 200 supporters at an orchard in Grand Rapids Township as kids dressed in superhero costumes played on a cold, sunny day.

"It's great to see Captain America and the other young people here today," said Snyder, a millionaire Ann Arbor businessman who has described himself in campaign advertisements as "One Tough Nerd."

With Snyder at Robinette's Apple Haus and Winery were state Rep. Brian Calley, candidate for lieutenant governor; attorney Bill Schuette, candidate for attorney general; and Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, candidate for secretary of state.

Voting 'an expectation'

In Detroit, pastors such as Bishop Charles Ellis Jr. of Greater Grace urged members to vote and help neighbors get to the polls.

"There is no excuse for not voting," Ellis told congregants as Bernero sat in a pew with his wife, Teri, flanked by Democrats including U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit, who faces Republican Don Ukrainec in the 14th Congressional District race.

Midterm elections typically draw fewer voters to the polls, but Ellis said Detroiters can't wait until the next presidential election to use their voting rights.

"There is no excuse for not voting --  if you don't get out on Tuesday, 2012 will be too late," Ellis said. "There is an extreme agenda out there, and if we don't get out there and exercise our right to vote, shame on us."

Lessie Jabari, 39, a Detroit Public Schools teacher, said she and her friends are offering rides to polls and text-messaging reminders to vote. She plans to vote, as do most of her friends.

"We're all making sure people get out to vote," Jabari said. "It's something I was raised with; it's an expectation."

Polls show GOP ahead

Bernero said Detroit is important to the election.

"I've been to every corner of the state talking to people about my concrete plan to create jobs," he said after his stops in the city. "Detroit is … important to Michigan's future. Detroit represents a big proportion of Michigan's economy, and we need to turn Detroit's economy around just like I've done in Lansing."

Polls show Snyder with a lead of close to 20 percentage points over Bernero, Lansing's mayor, and Schuette and Johnson with double-digit leads over their opponents, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton and Wayne State University law professor Jocelyn Benson respectively.

Despite that, Grand Rapids Township resident Steve Smalley, who attended Snyder's rally at the apple orchard, said he senses and fears the race is tightening.

"I'm afraid it's going to be too close," said Smalley, 68, a retired truck driver who said he likes Snyder because he feels his private sector experience shows a proven ability to create jobs.

Next to the economy, health care is the major issue motivating many Republican voters.

Before the stop in Grand Rapids Township, Schuette told a crowd of about 200 at the Mecosta County Republican Party headquarters in Big Rapids he would "fight Obamacare tooth and nail" if elected. He has vowed to continue a lawsuit against the federal health care overhaul and seek to have it repealed.

In an interview Sunday with The Detroit News, Snyder said he doesn't refer to the health care package as "Obamacare," as Schuette does, but believes parts of the package have to be repealed and reformed.

He said the bill became too complex and unwieldy and he's concerned about unfunded mandates he said it creates for state governments and businesses.

Health care looms large

Bill Routley, a Mecosta County commissioner who attended the Big Rapids rally, said the federal health care package is a major factor motivating him this year.

"I'm all in favor of health care reform, but I'm not in favor of that 1,200-page, unread policy that was pushed on us," he said.

Joseph Lenard of Wyandotte, who was among several hundred GOP supporters who turned out Friday night for a rally in Oakland County, said health care reform is also a major issue for him.

Lenard, a former computer worker for Kmart who is on Social Security disability with leukemia, said he has been forced to become an expert on the new health care legislation and believes it will cause him to lose benefits he now has by 2014.

Snyder, who started Sunday in Traverse City and Cadillac, plans stops today

in East Lansing, Grand Blanc and Ann Arbor.

Bernero has stops in Detroit, Wayne, Southfield, Canton, Ypsilanti, Lansing and Ann Arbor.