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Gov. Rick Snyder is leaving big shoes to fill after eight years of bringing Michigan back from economic ruin and governing in a manner that placed sound policies and sincerely held principles above partisan politics.

Michigan is fortunate to have two strong leaders in a position to carry on that good government tradition — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is among four candidates running in the Republican primary, and Gretchen Whitmer, who faces two key opponents in the Democratic contest. The primary elections are on Aug. 7.

Brian Calley is ready for the challenges Lansing has to offer, working effectively with Snyder for the eight years that have marked Michigan’s economic revival. The governor has relied on his top lieutenant for policy guidance, and to walk his priorities through the Michigan Legislature, where Calley had served four years as a state representative.

The progress Michigan has made under the Snyder/Calley team defied all expectations. Michigan was a bottom performer in every economic category in 2010 and government operations were bloated and in disarray.

Today, the state is among the nation’s leaders in job creation. Its books are legitimately balanced, old debts are being steadily paid down and fiscal responsibility has become the unofficial state motto.

The lieutenant governor drove much of the regulatory reform that has led to the creation of 540,000 jobs since 2010. He is also credited with spearheading tax reforms that made Michigan more attractive to business investment, which has increased under the administration’s watch. And he helped guide the effort to make Michigan a right-to-work state.

Calley’s projects as lieutenant governor include mental health and special education reform. The father of an autistic child successfully worked to get coverage for autism-related ailments included in health insurance policies.

Calley’s political approach is conciliatory and inclusive. He is very much his own man, but his on the job training as lieutenant governor will allow him to step into the top job without the need for a learning period.

From a political perspective, Calley’s primary campaign has been too often lackluster. Still, we believe he has the best hope for holding together the broad coalition of Republicans, Independents and business-minded Democrats that carried Snyder through two elections in a state that leans Democratic.

We also expect him to continue Snyder’s commitment to governing from the middle, turning back the more extreme proposals presented by his party and remembering that Michigan remains a centrist state in its political views.

Calley’s major opponent — and the front-runner during this GOP primary campaign — is Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Schuette has much to recommend him. He has run an aggressive campaign, and has a deep resume of public service. But he is far more partisan-motivated than Calley, and we strongly feel these times demand a governor who will unite rather than divide.

Gretchen Whitmer does not exactly fit that bill. As leader of the Senate during Snyder’s first two years, she rejected the opportunity to work across the aisle with a governor who had hoped to craft a bipartisan comeback.

But of the four Democrats running in the primary, she is by far the best choice and has exhibited on the campaign trail a broader understanding of what it takes to govern.

Whitmer has made “fixing the damn roads” the rallying cry of her campaign, and surely that is a sentiment shared widely by Michiganians. She’ll have to come up with a more credible strategy for paying for her infrastructure plan than what she’s offered, but the priority is right.

As is her promise to be an education governor. Whitmer is proposing what she calls student-focused education reform. If she can pull that off, it will push Michigan ahead in a critical area that produced disappointing results under Snyder’s watch.

Her plans for upping the skills level of Michigan’s workforce mirror the jobs training Marshall Plan that Snyder is pushing.

Whitmer is somewhat less hostile to school choice than the other Democrats in the race, though is hardly a friend to charter schools.

She also is more sympathetic to business, and understands the health of the state depends on healthy job creators.

And like her GOP foes, Whitmer is also an experienced Lansing hand.

Her major opponents, Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed, are full-throated socialists who trace every ill in society to profit-making corporations. Neither is fit to lead an industrial state.

Michigan voters would be best served by a November general election that featured a choice between Brian Calley and Gretchen Whitmer.

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