---- — DEARBORN (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder took to the drive-time airwaves this week, using a radio station's 50,000-watt megaphone to chat about news, banter about sports — and stump hard about issues facing Michigan voters this November.
Snyder officially served as a substitute for regular morning host Paul W. Smith on Detroit-based WJR-AM. But the carefully planned three-hour plus stint on the "Great Voice of the Great Lakes" served another purpose: allowing the Republican governor to share his views on the six contentious ballot proposals and banter with guests supporting his positions.
He isn't running for re-election, but Snyder said that more campaigning is planned, including additional media appearances and town-hall style meetings where he can, among other things, fight for an emergency manager law he signed and against requiring voters to approve building any new border crossing to Canada. He backs a proposal for a Canadian-financed international bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
"Any time I have an opportunity to have a good dialogue with smart people, including the radio this morning or a speech today, I'm going to be talking about these (issues)," Snyder told The Associated Press on Wednesday after speaking to the Michigan Association of Realtors in Dearborn on the same day he subbed on WJR.
"We're going to be doing a lot of town halls — I'm going to be on the town-hall circuit, in some ways, doing that around Michigan. We're looking at different ways I can actually do more media events," he said. "I view it as getting out and talking to people."
It's also about persuading people, who are inundated with advertisements on several of the proposals. One effort flooding the airwaves is the bridge proposal backed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun through a group called "The People Should Decide." His businesses have spent millions on ads.
Snyder said he's unable to match the money others have spent against the emergency manager proposal and for the bridge initiative — not to mention the other four he opposes. Still, he can call on some high-profile friends as he did on WJR. His guests included Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., who expressed support for the Canadian-backed bridge plan, and Detroit Public Schools' emergency financial manager Roy Roberts talking about progress in the district.
Ann Thomas, executive producer of Smith's show, said previous governors have been offered the guest host's chair, and she can recall former Gov. James Blanchard filled in for the late WJR morning host J.P. McCarthy. With Snyder, she said, there was neither money exchanged nor political motivation on the part of the station-- just a desire to find new and interesting guest hosts.
"I just offered it" to Snyder, Thomas said. "There was no attempt to have him on at this time so that he could talk about anything related to the election."
Thomas, a former news reporter, said she always aims to get "both sides of the story" on the show, and in particular has frequently invited Moroun or his family members to be guests. Smith's audience, she said, is "well aware of Matty Moroun and what he thinks of the bridge" Snyder wants.
She hasn't received any calls from those who oppose Snyder's appearance, but would accommodate those asking to be heard.
"I have a real bug about making sure people feel they can have equal time," she said.
A governor's use of media and other means to stump for issues or candidates isn't out of the ordinary, but the frequency and degree of Snyder's activities this season could be, said longtime state political analyst Craig Ruff. He said the full-court press is directly proportional to the number of initiatives — and impact they could have on Snyder's policymaking.
"The failure of the emergency manager act or passage of any of the proposed constitutional changes ... would really derail much of his agenda for the next two years," said Ruff, a senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants. "If a governor or president sets forth a policy agenda and is confronted by a ballot proposal that would undermine that objective, it's (his) responsibility to get into the fray — use every measure of the bully pulpit he can."
For example, Ruff said Snyder likely could not have eliminated the Michigan Business Tax and replaced it with a 6 percent corporate income tax that two-thirds of businesses don't have to pay if the proposal requiring a legislative supermajority to raise taxes had been law. Backers say requiring a two-thirds legislative vote would stabilize the tax environment and help the economy, while critics say it would create obstacles for future Legislatures and force cuts to education, roads and public safety.
The other three constitutional amendments entail increasing renewable energy use, strengthening collective bargaining rights and the right of home health care workers to unionize.
Ruff said Snyder's campaigning on the ballot issues could be even more important than stumping for GOP candidates and maintaining the party's majority control in Lansing.
"Whatever he wants to get through the Legislature, he might be able to handle a Democratic-controlled House," Ruff said. "He'd have a horrible time getting his agenda through because of the constitutional changes."
Although Snyder has a vested interest in the outcome of the election, the governor said he doesn't represent a "special interest." Ruff sees a role for the governor in the mix of election information.
"A large number of voters understandably cannot make sense of these ballot proposals. They're very complex," Ruff said. "Even the simple language on the ballot baffles a lot of people. A lot of voters will take cues from newspaper editorials — maybe a local politician, a neighbor, about how they should vote. Certainly they would take a cue from the governor. He is sending a cue to voters."