Republican Rick Snyder declared victory late tonight over Democrat Virg Bernero, leading a sweep of the top three statewide elected offices on Tuesday.
Snyder, a venture capitalist from Ann Arbor, held a 60% to 38% lead with 30% of statewide precincts counted. In a resounding speech before supporters, Snyder thanked his opponent and wife and called for a new sense of cooperation in Michigan.
Pledging a "strong commitment" to Detroit, Snyder added, "The real role is not to run the city of Detroit, it's to partner with the mayor and the city council and achieve success that way, and the same thing with Lansing and the other cities."
Earlier, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero took to the stage and told a disappointed crowd that he had just called Snyder to congratulate him on his win in the race for governor.
He promised to work with Snyder as he transitions into the governor’s job and urged his supporters to support Snyder as well. But it came with a warning.
“Our campaign may be over but our work standing up for regular people will go on,” Bernero said. “Mr. Snyder will soon be governor, he has promised to govern as a moderate like Bill Milliken, not like John Engler. I will partner with Rick Snyder and I will call on you to work with him as well, but if that doesn’t happen you and I will be watching, won’t we.”
He used his concession speech to call on Snyder to not give up on manufacturing and keep working people in mind when he takes over the reins of state government.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Snyder’s business background would help him as governor.
“Certainly he’s got the ability to have a vision, the ability to implement that vision, the ability to make some decisions, which is something we haven’t had in this state in eight years,” Patterson said.
He called Snyder a Republican “in the mold of Milliken,” referring to former Gov. William Milliken. “He’s a consensus builder. I mean, we’re in Detroit not by accident.”
Jubilation at Republican headquarters
At Republican headquarters at the Westin Book Cadillac, a happy crowd of supporters and well-wishers had gathered by 8 p.m. to celebrate the anticipated victory of Rick Snyder and other GOP candidates.
One who came was Don Williamson, a retired college professor from near Grand Rapids whose family owns a summer cottage near Snyder's on Gunn Lake. Snyder gave them an invitation to the party, and the Williamsons drove over for the evening. Williamson has known Snyder for about five years.
"He water skis with my son-in-law every morning at 7 o'clock. He's up bright and early," Williamson said of Snyder.
Meanwhile, a beaming Scott Stinebaugh, head of marketing for the Book Cadillac, was hovering over the scene, making sure everything went well. "We're just excited to be part" of the Snyder party, he said.
As the attendees celebrated and waited for results, some might have tried to decode the various colored credentials worn by everyone. The key: green for volunteers, white for media, blue for invited guests, red for campaign staff, yellow for friends and family.
There were two celebrations, actually. A VIP event on the Westin's fourth floor, and an event in the smaller media room on the second floor, where the menu included hot dogs and hamburgers.
Shortly after 9 p.m., prolonged cheers broke out at the already raucus GOP victory party when giant-screen televisions showed Fox News projecting Snyder winning by a mammoth margin.
A winning campaign as a political outsider
The poll confirmed what had appeared inevitable for weeks – that Snyder, campaigning as an outsider with fresh ideas for a broken state government, rode an unstoppable wave of voter disaffection with government in general and Democrats in particular.
Immediately after the Aug. 3 primary, where he scored a decisive upset victory over more established GOP rivals, Snyder led Bernero by double-digits in polls and never relinquished the advantage.
At an afternoon news conference, Snyder said he wasn’t taking victory for granted, but sounded like he was planning for Day 1 as governor-elect who would overcome intense partisanship with results.
“We’re still campaigning here,” he said. “Hopefully you’ll see us tomorrow hit the ground running.”
He added, “We’ll build a great team. We’ll deliver results. I’ve been a leader-manager my whole life. … I can execute well.”
Snyder would become the first Republican governor in eight years – succeeding Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm – and he would bring both an aura of hope and expectation and uncertainty to the state’s highest office. Snyder has never held elected office, and his promise to create a more cooperative political culture was shrouded in uncertainty over exactly what he would do.
He would be sorely tested in the Capitol, where head-butting between Republicans and Democrats has increased in recent years.
The union-backed Bernero sought doggedly to appeal to his Democratic base and middle class voters angry and struggling with economic uncertainty. His populist, Main Street vs. Wall Street theme to many reinforced his title as “America’s angriest mayor,” a label he earned as an outspoken advocate for the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler, in the face of conservative opposition.
Snyder, viewed as a more moderate conservative with solid business credentials, appealed to a wider swath of independents – and even some Democrats – with his message of creating a more positive atmosphere for solutions in Lansing.
If elected, Snyder said he would congratulate Bernero on a “hard-fought race” and would work with the Lansing mayor to build an urban agenda for Michigan’s cities.
He said he also hoped “to be a great partner” with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and promised to promote agriculture and small and medium-sized businesses already operating in the state.
Staff writer Kathleen Gray and John Gallagher contributed to this report.