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When a new Michigan governor is sworn in on Jan. 1, neither Donald Trump nor Jennifer Granholm will be raising their hands.

Nor will either one appear on the Nov. 6 gubernatorial ballot.

So this election campaign shouldn't be about how lousy a governor Granholm was nor how divisive a president Trump continues to be.

It should be about Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer. Both have long records of leadership in Michigan. They should make their case for the governor's office based on their own resumes, and their own plans for helping Michigan sustain its steady return to prosperity.

Whitmer is a woman and a Democrat, but that doesn't make her a Granholm clone. If elected, she will bring her own skills and viewpoints to the office. And she'll certainly come with far more practical governing experience than the former governor had when she took over in 2003. Granholm was clueless about how the Legislature worked and was wholly reliant on her union handlers.

Whitmer spent 14 years as a lawmaker, and was minority leader of the Senate when her term expired. She knows what it takes to move proposals into policy.

She does have things in her record to answer for, including her support of tax and regulatory policies that contributed to Michigan's lost decade. What did she learn? 

The Democratic nominee also must assure voters that she is not infected with the socialist fever gripping so much of her party. 

She's backed by labor unions that are hell bent on undoing much of what Gov. Rick Snyder has put in place to make Michigan more attractive to jobs and investments. Michigan will suffer if labor is the guiding force behind education and economic policies, and Whitmer must demonstrate that she's not in its pocket. 

Although he won the president's endorsement in the primary, Schuette is not Trump. He is far more politically astute and better understands the consequences of policy decisions. He will not hurt the state's economy with populism or rigid ideology. And he doesn't have Trump's congenital self-destructiveness.

The attorney general, too, has things to explain to voters. He fought to uphold the state's ban on gay marriage. And his prosecution of Snyder administration official in the Flint water case is seen by many as purely political. The Trump base has punished politicians who strayed from their skewed view of how the world should look. If they help elect Schuette, can he disappoint them when necessary?

Still, Schuette is a pragmatist keenly aware that Michigan is a politically divided state, and that his own future depends on not polarizing the electorate. He's served in every branch of government, so he has a broad understanding of how to get things done.

These are two good candidates who offer Michigan voters a distinct choice for the direction of the state. They each have their own virtues, their own flaws, and their own ideas.

They should run campaigns that are about their own positives, and what they see as the negatives of their opponent. 

But we don't need a surrogate campaign featuring Donald Trump and Jennifer Granholm.

Let's have a robust, hard-fought gubernatorial race. And let it be between Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer. 

nfinley@detroitnews.com 

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

 

 

 

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