Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, one of at least a dozen candidates pushing the idea of a publicly-owned bank in the 2010 mid-term elections, has captured the Democratic nomination for governor of Michigan.
The cash-strapped Bernero, who was largely unknown until only a few weeks ago, trailed State House Speaker Andy Dillon by double digits throughout most of the primary before peaking in the campaign’s final days.
“The people fought for the people’s agenda and they achieved victory,” a buoyant Bernero told his jubilant supporters at Detroit‘s Atheneum Suite Hotel. “The American dream is worth fighting for and the Michigan we grew up in, the Michigan that was at the top, is the Michigan we’re ready to fight for today,” he declared.
Facing a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit, Michigan continues to experience one of the worst jobless rates in the country — second only to recession-ravaged Nevada. The state has been experiencing a steady decline in jobs, particularly blue-collar manufacturing occupations, for nearly a decade.
Contending that commercial banks were hindering the state’s long-suffering economy because businesses and entrepreneurs couldn’t get adequate financing, Bernero boldly suggested that Michigan should follow North Dakota’s lead and create a state-owned bank that would operate like a traditional bank, making low-interest loans to businesses and college students.
The Bank of Michigan, he proclaimed last March, could not only kick-start the state’s faltering economy but could also alleviate Michigan’s foreclosure crisis by purchasing mortgage portfolios held by some of the state’s smaller banks.
The idea of a state-owned bank, first championed by economist Farid A. Khavari, who’s running for governor of Florida as an independent, has been promoted by more than a dozen candidates around the country this year, including former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury of Oregon.
Like several others pushing the idea, Bradbury was soundly defeated in his bid to capture the Democratic nomination for governor, but polled more than 29 percent of the vote against immensely popular former Gov. John Kitzhaber in the state’s May 18 primary.
The 46-year-old Bernero, the son of an autoworker whose populist platform reflected the growing anger and frustration of Michigan’s decimated workforce, is the first of those candidates promoting a state-owned bank to score a major electoral victory in the 2010 election cycle.
“I congratulate Mr. Bernero on his tremendous victory,“ said the 67-year-old Khavari, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Bremen. Bernero’s strong showing in yesterday’s primary demonstrates that the idea of a state-owned bank is beginning to resonate across the country, said Khavari, the author of nine books on economics.
“We will see more and more candidates running on the idea of publicly-owned banks, particularly in some of the hardest hit states such as Michigan and Florida,” predicted Khavari. “If states want to become recession-proof and prosperous, they’ll have to create their own state banks,” he added. “There is no other solution.”
“The American people are beginning to realize that the major commercial banks aren’t up to the task,” asserted the Iranian-born economist when reached last night at his home in Miami. “They’re simply unwilling and incapable of pulling us out of this never-ending recession.”
The Lansing mayor, who spent less than a million dollars in his surprising come-from-behind victory, but benefited immensely from late advertising support from organized labor, including the powerful United Auto Workers (UAW), was garnering 59 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary with 42 percent of the state’s 5,732 precincts reporting.
Bernero will face political novice Rick Snyder of in the general election. Snyder, a wealthy Ann Arbor venture capitalist and former computer executive, held a ten-point lead over U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra in the crowded Republican field with 64 percent of the votes counted.
State Sen. Tom George of Kalamazoo, who was profiled by Uncovered Politics last week, finished fifth in the Republican primary, snaring only two percent of the vote.
In other Michigan-related primary news, U.S. Rep. Sanders Levin, a 12-term member of the U.S. House and brother of Michigan Senator Carl Levin, easily beat back a spirited challenge from State Senator Mickey Switalski, trouncing the Roseville insurgent by a greater than two-to-one margin according to early returns.