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Michigan Election Results: Rick Snyder, Virg Bernero Face-Off In Heated Fight For Governor

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(AP) - The last time a wealthy Republican businessman tried to win the Michigan governor's race by dumping in millions of his own money while promising to fix the ailing state economy, he lost.

But Rick Snyder has a very different message from Dick DeVos, a conservative who favored teaching intelligent design along with evolution in science classes and ended up losing to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006. Snyder won the Republican primary Tuesday by moving toward the middle and pulling in moderate Republicans, independents and even some Democrats.

"He doesn't have the baggage of a traditional politician," Dearborn Republican Jim Kwilos, 54, an industrial sales representative, said of Snyder. "He comes from a different mindset, which I think is refreshing. ... It's about jobs and productivity and things he can do that will benefit everybody in the state."

Snyder will face Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who won the Democratic race with a populist message aimed at union workers hard-hit by the state's lost manufacturing jobs and 13.2 percent unemployment rate. Granholm couldn't run again this year because of term limits.

Many voters cited Michigan's ravaged economy and leadership as critical to their primary choices in the state's most wide-open gubernatorial race in decades. They also seemed to be looking for someone who promised less partisanship after years of gridlock in Lansing.

Snyder promised to deal with both.

"For people that believe our government works well and that the political system works well, they should vote for the other candidate," he told supporters at his victory party in Ypsilanti. "For people who believe our government is broken, our political system is broken, it's time for catalysts -- I want to represent you, someone from the real world."

Snyder repeated that message Wednesday while speaking to voters outside a suburban Detroit restaurant, where he also proposed three candidate debates. Snyder said he has been "very fortunate" in his career and that it's time to give back.

"We're suffering in this state. We've been beaten up for a lot of years," Snyder said. "It's time to bring that fire, that passion back."

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Snyder had 36 percent of the vote to 27 percent for U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, and 23 percent for Attorney General Mike Cox. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and state Sen. Tom George were far behind.

Bernero defeated state House Speaker Andy Dillon 59 percent to 41 percent.

He was helped by nearly $2 million in ads paid for by the state's major unions, which also pitched in with phone banks and door-to-door campaigning. Being the only candidate in the governor's race who supported abortion rights helped Bernero attract voters such as 30-year-old Melissa Irving to pull off a come-from-behind win over Dillon of suburban Detroit.

"Virg is supporting women's rights and women's freedom," said Irving, a nursing student and community mental health worker from Lansing. "He is supported by the labor parties, and I am a union member."

Bernero stuck to his populist message in addressing supporters at his Detroit victory party Tuesday.

"Working people count. Manufacturing and small businesses matter," he said. "The American dream is worth fighting for. And the Michigan we grew up in, the Michigan that was at the top, is the Michigan that we're ready to fight for today."

Bernero amplified that message during Wednesday morning media interviews, challenging his opponent to "at least eight debates."

"We're going to push the pedal to the metal in the green economy," Bernero told WWJ-AM.

Delton Benson of southwest Detroit was looking for someone who would bring in more jobs.

"Our economy is truly horrible, our neighborhoods are depleting, everybody is feeling the effects of unemployment," said Benson, 41. "(Democrats) promise to fight, all I can do is hope they will keep their promises."

In the Republican contest, many voters said Snyder's quirky ads portraying him as "one tough nerd" caught their attention. Snyder poured nearly $6 million of his own money into his campaign to keep the ads running.

Ben Zerafa, 39, a web designer from Traverse City, voted for Snyder because he seemed more moderate than the other Republicans in the race, who actively courted tea partiers and criticized Democratic President Barack Obama's stands on health care and immigration.

"I'm not ultraconservative and he doesn't seem like he's super conservative," said Zerafa, who also liked Snyder's upbeat ads because they were free of negative messages.

That image, though, could make him an unpalatable choice to some conservative Republicans. Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing flat-out told abortion opponents not to vote for Snyder in Tuesday's primary because of his support for embryonic stem cell research, even though Snyder says he opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother's life.

And Snyder's likely to face far more criticism in the general election than he faced in the primary.

Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer already has criticized the fact that thousands of U.S. jobs were lost when Gateway Inc. moved much of its manufacturing operations to other countries. Snyder no longer was the computer maker's president and chief executive officer when the change occurred, but he remained on the board. He says he wasn't involved in those decisions.

Michigan voters also had contested congressional races in many parts of the state.

After nearly 14 years in Washington, Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Detroit was defeated by state Sen. Hansen Clarke. She has been dogged by the legal troubles of her imprisoned son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and twice testified before a grand jury.

The field also was packed in three congressional districts in northern and western Michigan where no incumbents were on the ballot.

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