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Bowman to Face GOP Brushback

January 22, 2010

Bob Bowman backers will quickly dismiss it as a cheap shot. But if the former state treasurer under former Democratic Governor Jim Blanchard decides to run for his old boss’s job, his opponents will jump on it as proof positive that Bowman is “not one of us.” More on that in a moment.

Bowman was brought to Michigan via Wisconsin, New York and Washington D.C. by Gov. Blanchard and quickly won the title of “Whiz Kid.” At his tender age of twenty-something he was not exactly a veteran of legislative wars, but he was a quick study, could think on and off his feet and established himself as the unofficial junior governor.

Fast forward some 20 years later, and Bowman, who has a summer home in Harbor Springs, is actively and seriously considering running for governor, something he admits he has “always wanted to do.”

Now the opportunity is closer than ever, and as a close friend told Bowman recently, “If you want to run, now is the time.”

On the upside, Bowman has no ties to the Granholm administration other than chairing the MET board where he helps to administer the college tuition program he and Blanchard hatched 20 years ago.

His business resume is impeccable. “He’s made money for everyone he’s worked for,” glows Bob Kolt, who worked with Bowman and remains a kitchen cabinet advisor. Bowman ran ITT and now operates MLB.com, the Internet arm of Major League Baseball…a “dream job,” as he describes it.

He has a ton of money, charisma, a touch of arrogance and he connects well on the tube and in person. Should he get in, he might be the guy to beat…but then there are the downsides.

Bowman pushed through a recalcitrant legislature a hefty income tax increase, and even though it was ions ago, the state Republican Party will pummel him with that if he gets the nomination. Count on it.

Second is the carpetbagger problem, as in the aforementioned “He is not one of us.” During a closed-door meeting of Democratic big wigs recently, that issue was raised.

Bowman had his own Dick DeVos moment. Remember when DeVos ran for governor he appeared on a Tigers broadcast and could not name his favorite Tigers.

Bowman can relate.

In the course of a Bowman interview on statewide public TV in July 2008, he was asked if it was not presumptuous for a guy “who has not been here for a thousand years” to show up and want to run for governor?

Bowman did not flinch, saying: “I’ve been in the state the whole time.” But only during the summer at his manse in Harbor Springs. “I do stay in touch with the state,” he rose to his own defense,” since no one else would.

Well then, name the captain of the Red Wings, he was asked

“I don’t know that,” he told the truth quickly, adding, “I’m a baseball person.” Let’s just say he did not look like a Michigander.

For everyone in the TV audience who knew Nick Lidstrom was the captain, you gotta wonder what they were thinking.

And if Bowman gets into the race for governor, what will they think when the Republicans remind them of this Bowman miscue?

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series “Off the Record” since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

Tim Skubick Extra Extra… (A weekly bonus only for Dome readers)

White House Influence
Years ago when some upstart wanted to run for governor, the first drill was to raise some money, build name ID with the voters and start a buzz with the media.

Apparently the rules have changed. Now the first assignment is to get your butt into the White House…even if it is just to visit the janitor.

You’ve seen the headlines recently: “Ilitch visits White House,” followed by Speaker Andy Dillon noting, “I’ve been to the White House, too.” Finishing third is Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who can only boast that he has “talked” to folks at the White House. (Call the operator there and you can claim the same thing.)

Frankly, while all this W.H. stuff sounds wonderful and adds a certain air of legitimacy to a person’s candidacy, state Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer admits it doesn’t mean much at all.

Nailing down a meeting with some second-tier flunky is like cotton candy…tastes good but not much substance. However, give Ilitch credit. She was able to “leak” to the media that President Obama stuck his head in for a moment. Nobody knows if he said, “Hey, anybody in here see our dog Beau?”

Ordinary folks are wondering what the White House is doing sticking its nose into the Michigan governor’s contest in the first place. Doesn’t it have more important fish to fry? It was reported here last October that operatives there are worried about losing the state in this year’s race for governor.


Well, when Mr. President runs again in 2012, he’d like a blue governor in the chair and not some anti-Obama conservative Republican who would not lift a finger to help Mr. Obama.

There’s also the matter of redistricting. A Democratic governor has a critical role to play in composing the legislative and congressional voting districts. He or she who controls the redistricting process can increase the chances that his or her party will control both bodies.

With that it mind, look for other headlines to surface as Dan Kildee, Bob Bowman, Bart Stupak, and gawd only knows how many others will try to get into a “meeting” in the White House.

Maybe they can just try crashing a reception…apparently that’s easier to pull off.

Poor Danny Boy
He really wanted to run for the Democratic nomination to be governor, but being from Genesee County and all, he had a buddy from that same neck of the woods who also wanted the job.

Being a good guy and a wise politician, Dan Kildee chucked his bid for governor out of deference to frontrunner John Cherry.
Kildee proceeded to resign at the end of the year as county treasurer, and he took a job of a lifetime as president of a think-tank funded by some prestigious foundations out of D.C.

Then Cherry unexpectedly dropped out of the race, leaving Kildee with a huge problem: how do you get out of a new job when you really want the job as governor?

Kildee is trying to figure that out right now as he goes to his board of directors hoping to find some way to explore a bid for governor while not tossing in the towel on the foundation post.

Even he concedes it poses a professional problem that has not yet been ironed out.

On the family front, things have gone a little smoother. With one kid in college and one in high school, he does not have toddlers at home to demand more of his time. His wife is more concerned with the impact all this will have on her hubby, which is why God gave us loving spouses.

And then, of course, the biggest question of all: “Do the stars align to win?”

Kildee doesn’t know if this will work, but he says, “I want to run. I have the fire in the belly to do it. But will I run?”

He’s next up on the public TV series, Off the Record at WKAR.org. Tune in to see if he will.

January 21, 2010 · Filed under Tim Skubick Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bill Kerans // Jan 22, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Suggestion for Mr. Bowman (no charge): “As far as I’m concerned, Steve Yzerman will always be the captain of the Red Wings.” That should get him safely through the election. As long as he doesn’t pronounce it “Wise-er-man.”

  • 2 Ron M. // Jan 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I’m all for Bowman getting into the race. The MET was a great and innovative program…it was the Engler Administration that down-graded the MET to a second-class citizen (raising rates to unneeded levels). Bowman has the brains and backbone to really help this state–and God knows we need all the help that we can get. Does anyone really believe that Wheeler or Dillon or Cox or (insert a name) can take us out of this economic depression? By the way, I don’t care if a candidate is from MARS (with a summer home in Kalkaska) if they can get Michigan on track again.

  • 3 Dennis Muchmore // Jan 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Sorry, I know this is a bit old fashioned, but I do believe the next gov ought to be from Michigan. Bob’s obviously a smart and talented person, but it is a bit of a hinderance.

  • 4 Roger Martin // Jan 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I got to know Bob well when he was state treasurer and I was a political reporter at The Detroit News, kicking his butt as often as not in the newspaper (and on the baseball diamond, though there was payback there too!). Bob is as much a Michigander as I am. I was not born here, but this is my home as much as it is his. I spoke with him several times in the mid 1990s when I needed assistance on a project for a client, long after my days as a scribe had passed and long after he had left state government. Bob’s life experiences in politics and corporate America lap the field on both sides. He is as smart as they come, is bold, and creative. He also has achieved a comfortable position in life, a great place to be if you need to come into politics and make tough decisions without having to worry about how they affect your future earning potential. I know he is serious about running, and I look forward to hearing his vision for restoring prosperity to our state.

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