Eye on Lansing Snyder may not follow trend of seeking 2nd term

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

AP Political Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan hasn't had a governor leave after one term since the early 1960s, but current chief executive Rick Snyder may end up doing just that.

If Snyder decides to be a one-term governor, it's because he wants it that way. The businessman-turned-politician has said he isn't tied to running for a second term if he's gotten done in four years what he set out to do, although he also hasn't ruled out running again in 2014.

"I'm not doing the job for the sake of saying I was governor of Michigan for 'X' number of years," Snyder told The Associated Press in a phone call from his Southeast Asia trade trip. "It's more about making a difference and giving something back."

If Snyder's harboring any thoughts about not running for a second term, he's not flaunting them. He can't afford to be seen as a lame duck well before his term ends if he wants to have the clout to accomplish more of his goals, such as getting a new international bridge built between Detroit and Canada, finding a new way to raise revenue for road and bridge repairs and getting more people into the jobs available in the globalized economy.

He's already having trouble getting some Republican lawmakers on board with his plans for building the new bridge and setting up an exchange where residents can buy private health insurance. House and Senate Republicans could be harder to persuade if they know he's not going to be on the ballot when they have to face voters three years from now.

Still, it's not hard to envision Snyder deciding to move on. Serving in government is just phase two of his lifetime plan, and while he's already had a lengthy business career, teaching remains on his to-do list. The multimillionaire says he's still working toward the goals he set as a teenager: "Make money, help people, have fun."

The governor also doesn't seem to be warming to the political side of his job or laying the groundwork for a long political career. Instead of getting into partisan fights, he's more likely to give pep talks about putting aside politics to do what's best for Michigan. The lack of any red-meat rhetoric at the recent Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference left some party activists scratching their heads.

Snyder's record in the private sector shows he's not one to stay put once he's done what he set out to do. He spent a decade working his way up to partner at a prominent accounting firm before jumping to computer startup Gateway Inc., where he was one of the first people hired. He left Gateway after six years to start the first of two venture capital firms he formed in Ann Arbor, returned to Gateway as interim CEO for a brief seven months in 2006 and then went back to Ardesta, the second of his venture capital firms.

On the lookout for a new challenge, Snyder got his wife's blessing to get into the governor's race in 2009 and easily won after promoting himself as "one tough nerd." He'll be 56 when his first term ends, plenty of time to explore other political, business and academic options.

If he does leave, Snyder will be the first governor since Democrat John Swainson to serve only one term -- and Swainson didn't go willingly, losing his 1962 re-election bid to Republican George Romney after serving what was then a two-year term.

Other than Swainson, Michigan governors over the past six decades have tended to stay on. Michigan's longest-serving governor, Republican William Milliken, was the state's top executive for 14 years, from 1969-1982. He moved up from lieutenant governor in 1969 when Romney left the governorship after seven years to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Democrat G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams served a dozen years, from 1949-1960, as did Republican John Engler, from 1991-2002. Democrat James Blanchard wanted a third term in 1990, but lost to Engler. Blanchard lost his second bid for a third term when Jennifer Granholm beat him in the 2002 primary. She served from 2003 to 2010 after voters limited governors to two four-year terms.

Snyder doesn't see himself on a similar path as Romney, a businessman-turned-politician whose ambition led him to run unsuccessfully for president in 1968. Engler was on a short list of possible vice presidential candidates in the 1990s, and there was even brief talk at one point of changing the U.S. Constitution so the Canadian-born Granholm could run for president.

Unlike several other governors being talked about as possible candidates for the nation's top job, Snyder doesn't yearn for the White House. He told the AP he's not sure what other political jobs he'd be interested in, if any.

What he does want to do, he said, is work hard as governor for the next three years -- or maybe seven, he hastens to add.

"I don't even think about the topic much," he said, referring to a possible re-election campaign. "There's going to be plenty to do in the next four years."

Published: Thu, Oct 6, 2011