July 28 2010 12:00 AM

We're for Virg


Who would have believed a year ago it would come down to this?

That Lt. Gov. John Cherry — the runaway Democratic primary frontrunner, the presumptive nominee — would drop out eight months before election?

That a congressman (Bart Stupak), a successful businesswoman who’s been elected statewide (Denise Ilitch), a former state treasurer who runs the Internet arm of Major League Baseball (Bob Bowman) and a renowned urban revitalization expert and a 25-year county official (Dan Kildee) would all pass at filling the void?

That the field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates would be reduced to two?

That the only true socially progressive option to lead our state in 2010 would be our own mayor, Virg Bernero?

Yet, this is where we are. Michigan needs Bernero as its governor. It needs someone who will advance the social clock, not roll it back. Someone with proven public executive experience, who can make decisive decisions without getting rolled by Republicans.

For those who believe in the rights and future of women, the LGBT community, the environment, the working class and our urban communities, Bernero is the only candidate who can generate excitement on the Democratic side of the ballot this fall.

The progressives are hungry for a mainstream Democrat, who will shake things up and give them a reason to show up on Election Day, not someone consistently stuck in neutral until forced into a bad strategic move by Republicans.

Theyre hungry for someone capable or willing to coax significant public policy out of a legislative body without turning it into a dogs lunch like the Michigan Business Tax. Were done with the mealy-mouthed, feel-good, cheerleading stuff, where statements are continuously reworked and nuanced to appease the audience of the moment while nothing of substance gets done.

Its time for a progressive John Englertype, who stands on specific principles and then cuts deals and cracks the whip to make things happen. Bernero is that type of guy.

His drive helped push development in downtown Lansing. The Accident Funds $182 million revitalization of the old Ottawa Street Power Station is the most notable example of Berneros ability to make happen a complex project involving various layers of government and business interests.

As an administrator, Bernero ticked some people off when he closed two Lansing-owned golf courses and gave city employee furlough days as his menu for balancing the citys budget, but he did it without completely draining the Rainy Day Fund or raising taxes.

We understand Bernero, 46, has been in politics longer than his opponent, House Speaker Andy Dillon, and some may view that as a negative. Bernero worked in the Legislature in the late 80s and early 90s. He was an Ingham County commissioner for eight years before being elected to the state House in 2000. He won a seat in the state Senate in 2002 and tried for the mayors seat in 2003 before winning the position in 2005.

However, if Bernero wasnt an effective elected public official, our community wouldnt give his campaign money, wouldnt endorse him or vote him into a higher office, let alone the one he holds now. As it is, the Adrian College graduate won his last election against a popular Lansing City Council member by 25 points. Hes doing something right.

Dillon, 48, is serving his final term in the state House, after working in the private sector as the vice president of G.E. Capital and the president of Detroit Steel Co. The University of Notre Dame graduate worked in Washington for former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.

Dillon, the married father of four, has a history of uncorking innovative ideas to solve Michigan governments problems. His idea of selling off the rights of future tobacco settlement dollars to fund $400 million of Gov. Jennifer Granholms 21st Century Job Fund proved successful.

Unfortunately, many more never got off the ground or were spiked before takeoff — his idea of polling all public employees under one health care plan being Exhibit 1A. Rather, his overly optimistic nature and his reluctance to pull the trigger combined to create two small government shutdowns in the last three years.

Dillon also is pro-life, which created an issue in 2008 when he had to live up to a promise made to Right to Life of Michigan by holding a vote on a partial-birth abortion ban against the will of a majority of his Democratic caucus. The speaker also did not support Proposal 2 of 2008, which made it easier for Michigan to study stem cell lines, a frightening position considering RTL is salivating at the opportunity to stunt the scientific incentive behind the proposal by requiring unnecessary and cumbersome reports.

Whereas Dillion opposes same-sex marriage, Bernero has a proven record on LGBT issues, being an early supporter of the 2006 Human Rights Ordinance that banned discrimination in housing and jobs based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Lansing. He stood with members of the gay community at the statewide Pride Day celebration at the state Capitol earlier this summer, as well, and has earned the endorsement of Equality Michigan, a statewide gay rights organization.

More than any other issue, Dillon has passionately backed allowing Michigan power companies to build new coal-fire plants throughout our state. He took to the steps of the state Capitol to rally for the new pollution-generating structures several months ago.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action are supporting Bernero because of his plan to move Michigan toward cleaner energy alternatives like natural gas and biomass.

City employee labor groups havent always supported the mayor during tough budget times, and thats understandable. But his support of the working class and their contribution to American society was inspiring last year.

When blowhards across the country took potshots at the Michigan autoworkers and the Big Three, Bernero took them on during his appearances on CNN, Fox News and other national media outlets. Pinned as Americas " Angriest Mayor," Bernero gave voice to the frustration many Michigan citizens felt about being kicked around by other Americans who didnt understand what eight straight years of an economic recession felt like or who did not fully appreciate the contributions organized labor have made to our livelihood.

While some in Washington didnt want to give General Motors and Chrysler a helping hand after foolishly shelling out millions to Wall Street high-rollers, Bernero reminded America what their bankruptcies would mean to thousands of working families across this state.

This will be a rough year for Democrats. Without an energetic statesman with the fire in the belly to campaign for the party, Democrats may see congressional races fall or winnable state Senate or state House seats go red.

Dillon has alienated so many progressive activists that the Democratic base, which is especially important in off-year elections, will simply not turn out in November. That would likely turn complete control of state government over to the Republicans, who would then control political redistricting and politics for a decade.

After a rough takeoff, Berneros message is finally starting to sink in, according to some targeted polls being conducted by Practical Political Consultants.

The UAW and other labor groups are picking up the phone and getting their members excited about Bernero. Reports of Berneros demise earlier this month have been exaggerated.

"There are many signs of life for Virg," said PPCs Mark Grebner. "He may even be the presumptive winner at this point. A bunch of little surprises in polling around the state are almost always favorable to Virg."

Seeing that Virg has been behind in every poll taken on the Democratic primary from the start, progressives across the state need to join together and make sure Bernero has the support he needs to win the only poll that matters — the one taken in the Aug. 3 Democratic gubernatorial primary.