Democratic stalwarts Matt and Rene Greff, the owners of Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery and Ann Arbor’s Arbor Brewing Company, angered a number of their progressive brethren in 2010 when they publicly came out in support of their friend, Rick Snyder, who was then running in the Republican primary for Governor. The Greffs shared their reasons for supporting the successful Republican businessman, who had run as a moderate, but many, if the comments left on this site are any indication, have still not forgiven them for supporting Snyder, who has gone on to distinguish himself as one of the more aggressively right wing governors in the country. Well, it would appear as though, this time, Snyder won’t be getting either their financial or moral support. Following is my conversation with Rene Greff on why she and Matt have made the decision to back the Democrat Mark Schauer for Governor.
MARK: A few days ago, you mentioned to me that you and Matt would be throwing your support behind Mark Schauer in the upcoming Governor’s race, and I was wondering if you wanted to make a public statement as to why you won’t be supporting Rick Snyder this time out.
RENE: In a nutshell, we are supporting Mark Schauer for governor because he is an awesome candidate who shares all of our core Democratic values and we think he has a very good chance of being elected and taking back the governor’s office. We supported Rick Snyder’s bid to become the Republican candidate in the last election cycle because we knew that barring some major unforeseen scandal on the republican side there was no way that John Cherry (who was the candidate at the time) could win and unfortunately he stayed in the race just long enough to make it nearly impossible for Virg Bernero to win. And, if Bernero didn’t win, then we were looking at turning the state over to Mike Cox, Pete Hoekstra, or Rick Snyder. So we joined a group of high-profile Dems in Washtenaw County who decided to get involved in the Republican primary to try and help Snyder win the nomination because we knew that he was the only Republican candidate who did not have a right-wing social agenda. We knew we were looking at the very real possibility of both legislative branches being controlled by Republicans and hoped to have at least a fighting chance of holding the line on choice, the environment, and LGBT issues if Bernero lost the election.
MARK: And this time around you think that the Democrats have more of a realistic shot?
RENE: Happily this election cycle is looking very different than 2010 and we believe Michigan is going to go blue in the Governor’s race and stay blue in Gary Peters’ senate race so we’re back to not caring what happens in Republican primaries. The Dems have united around a fantastic candidate. We know Mark personally, supported his congressional campaign, and were among the thousands of supporters urging him to run because we know that he has what it takes to win and more importantly to lead.
MARK: Assuming that you reached out to Rick and told him that you’d be backing his Democratic rival this time, how’d he take the news?
RENE: We sent him an email but did not get a response back. But I can’t imagine he was surprised since he understood the nature of the support he got from Dems in the primary.
MARK: Are you aware of other local Snyder supporters that are defecting?
RENE: I don’t think it’s accurate to refer to our support of the democratic candidate as a “defection”. We are life-long democrats who have been very involved with and generous to democratic causes and campaigns for the past 20 years. We did not support Snyder’s general election bid for governor. The idea was to mitigate the worst-case scenario if Cherry/Bernero lost. We supported his primary run financially and asked people who were voting in the Republican primary to vote for him and asked dems who didn’t have preferred candidates in the democratic primary to cross over and vote in the republican primary to keep Cox and Hoekstra off the ticket in the general election. But we certainly did not encourage anyone to vote for him in the general election. We personally voted in the Democratic primary since we had a lot of races we cared about and as always we voted Democratic in the general and I have to assume that was also the case for the rest of the Dems that supported Rick’s primary run.
MARK: I didn’t mean to imply by my use of the term “defection” that you and Matt were leaving the Republican Party to become Democrats. I’m well aware of your credentials when it comes to supporting progressive candidates, and I know that your backing of Rick was an aberration, due to the factors that you’ve just noted, as well as your friendship. With that said, though, you are aggressively going after Rick this time, when, at least to my knowledge, you didn’t actively support Bernero against him last time. Maybe defection was too strong a word, but I think it’s pretty clear that you’re taking a more defined position against him this time, when, in the past, there was at least tacit support, and – to get back to my original question – I’m wondering if you know of other high-profile Democratic supporters of his in Washtenaw County that are also bowing out this election cycle. Or, maybe a better question is… Do you know of any Democrats that supported Rick last time that are still supporting him this time?
RENE: I do not.
MARK: What was it that most disappointed you about Snyder’s tenure as Governor? And were you caught off guard by just how aggressive he’s been when it comes to pushing the conservative agenda?
RENE: I think it’s been pretty much what we expected with the glaring exception of signing the anti-abortion bill which surprised and bitterly disappointed us since that was one of the explicit discussions we had with him before joining the group of Dems that were supporting his primary run. We were also very disappointed about the “right to work” legislation and the failure in education which we thought was a critical part of his recipe for reviving Michigan’s economy.
MARK: What about Schauer’s agenda most resonates with you? What are you hoping to see from him, legislatively speaking?
RENE: Schauer’s message is basically that Michigan is a blue state and should be governed like one. That means a commitment to making public education affordable and effective from pre-k through college; it means keeping the promises we have made to seniors and workers; it means protecting a woman’s right to privacy and the ability to make healthcare decisions for herself; it means acknowledging and protecting the rights of everyone in the state to love who they love without fear of discrimination or physical threat; it means building our economy by building wealth and opportunity in the middle and emerging middle class and ensuring fair and equal pay and it means protecting the right to organize that created the middle class and the 40 hour work week and the weekend; it means respecting and protecting our democratic process by ensuring that every eligible voter has equal access to the polls; respecting and supporting true small businesses that are reviving our economy; not making short-sighted decisions for short-term political or economic gain at the expense of our treasured natural resources. Basically it is the hallmark planks in the Democratic platform.
MARK: I may be wrong, but I think what we saw transpire during the lame duck session was Snyder’s complete and total capitulation to the likes of DeVos, in exchange for their promise not to run a candidate against him from the right. Is that your impression?
RENE: It sure felt that way. And I don’t know how else to explain going back on some pretty clear statements made before and during the primary.
MARK: If you had to do it all over again, would you have done it the same way? Do you think, in retrospect, that Hoekstra or Cox could have possibly done more damage?
RENE: Yes. They would have done a lot more damage. I wish he had wielded the veto pen more often, but he did stop the voter ID bill, concealed carry in schools, and the Blue Cross reform bill which they would have signed. And they would be fighting the implementation of the health care exchanges called for in the Affordable Care Act. And I guarantee you that the legislature would have passed a lot more radical right wing social legislation knowing they had a kindred spirit in the Governor’s office.
And I know that some people think that a more radical right wing candidate would have lost in the general election and I guess we’ll never know that. All I know is that a lot of high ranking democratic officials were saying privately that Mark Brewer’s lack of candidate recruitment and botched Cherry candidacy coupled with the rise of the Tea Party and the typical mid-term swing ensured a Republican victory.
MARK: The comparison may not be valid, but, when I look at what the far right has accomplished in Michigan and what they’ve been able to do in Wisconsin, I’m left thinking, rightly or wrongly, that Snyder has been more effective at pushing forward the agenda of the far right than Scott Walker. And I’m wondering if, in part, that’s because people on the left weren’t taken in by Walker. They knew what he was all about, and they responded accordingly. With Snyder, I think that a lot of us, myself included, thought that he’d stand up and fend off the worst of what was being pushed by ALEC, the Koch brothers, DeVos and others… which ultimately made him more dangerous.
RENE: I have to plead ignorance when it comes to Scott Walker and Wisconsin politics beyond the union-busting legislation. But the fact is that, due in large part to the flurry of unpopular Republican measures pushed through the legislature and signed into law with virtually no public debate, Rick Snyder is currently one of the least popular governors in the country, and is included in just about every pundit’s list of the Republican governors most likely to lose re-election in 2014. So, while they were very successful in ramming through a radical agenda, I don’t think it will serve them well in the long run.
MARK: How much money will Schauer have to raise in order to take on Snyder, who, one would assume, will have the backing of DeVoss, the Koch brothers, and others on the far right?
RENE: I have no idea. He isn’t going to be able to outspend him, but I don’t think he has to. He just needs enough money to get his message out there.
MARK: And you’re hosting an upcoming fundraiser for Schauer?
RENE: We ran into Mark at the Clean Water Action Award Celebration in April and told him that if he decided to run, we wanted to host his kickoff fundraiser at our house or one of the pubs. So, as soon as he officially announced, we started working with his campaign on the event which will be at our house from 4:00 to 6:00 on July 13. We are looking forward to introducing him to a lot of Ypsi residents who may not be familiar with him since we were not in his congressional district. So far we have a dozen hosts on board and we’re still hoping to sign up a few more hosts before the event. Support levels are $3,400 for the host committee, $1,000 for sponsors, $500 for supporters, and $250 for patrons. Mark is going to have to raise a lot of money to compete against a self-funded incumbent so we’re hoping to get the fundraising effort off to a great start.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m sorry, but I had no other ideas as to how to illustrate this post.
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