Tudor Dixon criticizes using taxpayer funds to lure battery plant project to Big Rapids

Immigrant businessman enters Democratic gov race

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Detroit — Even with an accent and nontraditional name, Shri Thanedar said those factors won’t stop Michiganians from supporting his Democratic candidacy for governor.

Another guy with a funny-sounding name — Barack Obama — rose to prominence in politics and became president, so why not him? Thanedar asked Thursday.

Thanedar, 62, of Ann Arbor, an Indian immigrant and a longtime businessman, made official his campaign for governor in a kick-off speech at the business accelerator TechTown. He touted small business growth as well as smart government managing and equality for all citizens.

His skills of “bringing people together,” solving problems and promoting strong ethics will be good for the legislative process in Lansing, he said. But he also said he would be willing to compromise since both houses of the Legislature are currently controlled by Republicans.

His most pointed comments came about Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, whom he described as a puppet for corporate interests who doesn’t understand residents or their needs.

“Michigan cannot afford another four years of Snyderism,” said Thanedar, reading from a typed speech in his announcement. “Today we ask and answer the question: Do we chose the small-minded Michigan of Rick Snyder. Do we chose chose the small-minded Michigan of crony capitalism? Or do we chose a great Michigan?”

Snyder can’t run for a third term because of term limits.

Thanedar said he grew up dirt poor in India but moved to America more than 30 years ago and rose to create Avomeen Analytical Services. He sold his business for an undisclosed price in the millions and even gave his employees a $1.5 million bonus.

Thanedar was able to rebound to create a thriving business after losing it all in the recession, including the foreclosure of his house.

Thanedar said he’s a different kind of businessman than Snyder or Donald Trump because he built a business “from the ground up rather than being handed billion-dollar corporations.”

Bad government by leaders such as Snyder, he said, “leads to disasters like Flint, where the after effects of the lead contamination crisis continue.

“Today, those in Lansing tell us that giving taxpayers’ money to big corporations will magically improve the lives of ordinary Michiganders,” he said. “Now we know that that doesn’t work. We will end non-productive corporate welfare and invest in human capital, creating jobs, supporting small businesses, and creating a culture of start-ups that is second to none.”

Thanedar promised to end “sweetheart deals to corporations who deliver to Michigan.”

The political newcomer joins a race against former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs. Ann Arbor attorney Mark Bernstein and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel are considering mounting campaigns.

The most important thing in this election, Thanedar said, is electing a Democrat to the governor’s job to bring political balance. But if elected, he said, “I will give and take, I will compromise,” as long as he gets 75 percent of his issues considered.

When asked on what would he compromise, he responded, “we’ll see.

“If you work hard, you deserve to live with dignity,” he said.

In his speech, Thanedar said he supports a $15-an-hour minimum wage and would like to see vocational and trade skills and education strengthened. Michigan’s minimum wage is $8.90 an hour, the 16th highest in the country and above the federal level of $7.25.

He also spoke in support of traditional bread-and-butter Democratic themes such as marriage equality, women’s right to choose on abortion, the right to collective bargaining and racial equality.

“All of this will be non-negotiable in my administration,” he said.

Thanedar said he will start to raise money immediately and may consider using part of his own fortune to finance his campaign. Since he has sold his business, his candidacy “will be a full-time thing for me. My entire focus will be on this campaign.”

lfleming@detroitnews.com

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Twitter:@leonardnfleming