As of this last January, before even announcing his intention to run for re-election, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder already had approximately $4 million in his campaign war chest. Money on the right, it would seem, is relatively easy to come by, when you’re willing to bring the likes of Scott Walker, Jed Bush and Chris Christie into the state to appear alongside you at high-dollar fundraising dinners. On the other side of the aisle, though, the dynamic is a bit different. The wealthy donors are considerably more scarce, and, as a result, we see things like this Thursday evening’s fundraiser at Ann Arbor’s Arbor Brewing Company for Democratic candidate for Governor Mark Schauer, where a mere $25 will get you in. This, as you can imagine, presents significant challenges. While Snyder can afford to air ads during the Super Bowl declaring himself the “comeback kid” (in spite of the fact that Michigan, at the same time, was 49th among the states in projected job growth), Schauer is seeking public funding for his campaign, at least through the August primary. (Schauer has requested close to $1 million in public funding. If it’s offered and accepted, it would mean that he can only spend a total of $2 million through the primary season.) The obstacles for a candidate like Schauer are immense. But there’s an up-side as well. Because Schauer has to work harder for every dollar, and every vote, he actually invests the time to talk with the likes of me.
What follows is a very short exchange between me and the man I hope will be the next Governor of Michigan, Mark Schauer. As time was tight, we didn’t have an opportunity to delve into subjects too deeply, but my hope is that one day soon I’ll have a chance to follow up and dig deeper into these, and other, issues.
MAYNARD: We’d like to think that elections are about ideas, but they’re often more about money. And the person with the best ideas doesn’t always win, especially when the other side has the ability to blanket the public airwaves with ads that, to put it kindly, distort the truth. One suspects, as Snyder has allowed wealthy Michiganders like Dick DeVos to pursue their aggressive conservative agenda unchallenged, that he’ll have their continued financial support during the election. Furthermore, we can assume that Snyder will continue to pull money from out-of-state conservatives, like the Koch brothers, who helped bankroll the successful campaign to make Michigan a so-called right-to-work state. How can you effectively compete against a candidate who has those kinds of resources?
SCHAUER: Rick Snyder has powerful friends. Dick DeVos, Donald Trump, and the Koch brothers are all supporting Snyder. Having said that, Dick DeVos spent tens of millions of his family fortune in 2006, and proved that the candidate with the most money doesn’t always win.
There’s no question we will be outspent in this election, but make no mistake, we will have the resources we need to communicate our message and win this November. That’s why small fundraisers for grassroots supporters are so important – because there are more of us than them.
MAYNARD: This year’s Netroots Nation convention will be held in Detroit, in mid-July. How do you intend to capitalize on that fact?
SCHAUER: It’s a great opportunity for Michigan to showcase two national races for Governor and U.S. Senate. We’re still working out the details, but I expect to participate in at least one panel discussion, and meet with some national bloggers to talk about what’s at stake in this election. Rick Snyder has managed to fly under the radar nationally, but he’s cut from the same cloth as Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Scott. This is our opportunity to shine a bright light on how Snyder’s policies are hurting the middle class and seniors.
MAYNARD: I’m not sure how familiar you are with my website, but, among other things, I occasionally interview people as they leave the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area. Just recently, I was conducting one of these exit interviews with a lesbian couple leaving the state for Seattle, and, in response to one of my questions, they essentially said that they didn’t want to live in a state in which they weren’t valued and respected, as evidenced by the passage of recent legislation targeting not only the LGBT community, but women in general. I’m curious what you would say to others who might be on the fence, considering leaving the state.
SCHAUER: I would tell them that help is on the way. I understand their frustration, but that’s why this election is so important. There is a clear contrast in this race. Rick Snyder is out of touch, and his policies are hurting Michigan women and the LGBT community. Whether he was signing extreme anti-choice legislation, or wasting taxpayer dollars to defend Michigan’s discriminatory ban on marriage equality, it’s clear this governor just doesn’t get it.
If you want a sense of how I’ll govern, take a look at my running mate, Lisa Brown. Lisa was an outspoken advocate for women’s reproductive rights in the Legislature, and as Oakland County Clerk, she was one of three clerks in the state to issue marriage licenses to loving, committed same-sex couples. Lisa and I share the same values and vision for Michigan. And as governor, I’ll fight to make sure women earn equal pay for equal work, and I’ll fight to make Michigan a marriage equality state.
MAYNARD: Given that it’s become nearly impossible to legislate at the federal level due to Republican obstructionism, it seems like the states are becoming increasingly more important. And, over the last several years, under Snyder, we’ve seen how effective a party can be when it dominates a state. Among other things, we’ve passed one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion bills. We’ve passed legislation that ensures handpicked Republican judges hear cases brought against the state by citizens. We passed right-to-work legislation, which, just a few years previously would have been unthinkable. We’ve brought the term “rape insurance” to the American discourse… Assuming you win the Governorship, but that Democrats fail to win the House and Senate, what can we realistically expect to happen in terms of rolling back some of this legislation from the far right?
SCHAUER: I think Democrats are poised to pick up seats in both chambers this year. But regardless of which party holds a majority in the legislature, electing a Democratic governor would be an important first step to start undoing the damage we’ve seen over the past four years.
I’ve always been someone who can work across the aisle to get things done. I’m not running for governor just to wear out a veto pen, but I’ll use it as leverage to advance an agenda that helps to grow and strengthen the middle class.
MAYNARD: A few days ago, you made the following statement about Detroit. “It’s time for Detroiters to lead Detroit,” you said. What did you mean by that?
SCHAUER: We have a new democratically-elected mayor and city council in Detroit, and I think they should be leading Detroit’s day-to-day turnaround efforts. Kevyn Orr doesn’t live here, and when his contract expires, he’ll move back to his home in Maryland. We need Detroiters who have a vested interest in the city’s future leading the city, and they should be accountable to voters. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.
If you’d like to contribute toward Mark’s campaign for Governor, you can do so either on his site, or by way of Act Blue. And, if you have the time on Thursday evening, do consider registering here, and coming out to meet Mark at Arbor Brewing. It should be a good event.