BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY —
Democratic candidate Bob Carr attended 100 events since the start of the campaign season. He hopes foot leather and handshakes can overcome a sizable financial advantage held by former state Rep. Howard Walker, Carr's opponent for the 37th state Senate District seat.
Carr scaled a similar obstacle 14 years ago in a Republican primary race for Congress. He's older and grayer now, but the Mackinac Island resident said he hasn't lost the energy and enthusiasm needed to run a low-budget campaign across an eight-county district that stretches from Traverse City north to Sault Ste. Marie.
"I've been on radio and TV news ... it's phenomenal how people know me," Carr said. "Just about every place we go, I've worked on a project. My poor opponent, when he goes to debates, nobody knows anything about him."
Carr's projects include historical preservation and railroad-car revival. They haven't always worked out financially for Carr, who's been to bankruptcy court and once was sued by Traverse City over a derelict railroad car.
"Sometimes you get caught in a crossfire," Carr said. "These are tough economic times."
Walker, Carr's opponent, raised more than $175,000 for his Republican primary and spent almost all of it, including $55,000 of his own money. He hasn't ruled out running television ads for the general election, and said he's taking Carr "very seriously."
Walker, of Traverse City, formerly represented Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties in the state House. This campaign is all about jobs and the economy, he said.
His main focus will be on growing energy-related business and value-added agriculture.
"It's important for northern Michigan because we have opportunities in both agriculture and energy," Walker said.
Walker said Michigan needs to create more electric generation because it spends $20 billion a year importing electrical energy. He wants the state to consider everything from wind, hydro and natural gas to coal and nuclear generation.
"We need to develop guidelines that will fix the problems associated with them instead of saying we just don't want them," he said. "Think of the jobs and impact if that $20 billion was circulating around Michigan instead of leaving the state."
Carr raised $1,200 from others and appears to have spent more than that just on ferry tickets, gas and eating at a truck stop, according to his campaign statements.
"I don't need a GPS and I don't need a campaign manager. I'm going to outwork those guys," he said.
Carr's campaign message hasn't changed much since 1996. He said he'll visit other districts to bring back good ideas and strategies for economic growth, become the district's top promoter, and match businesses looking for a place to locate with communities in his district.
"It's all about service to your community," Carr said.