AG hopeful Schuette sees chance for new team

By David Runk

Associated Press Writer

TROY (AP) -- Whether it's at a meet-and-greet at a Detroit-area pizza shop or the taping of TV appearances about his race for Michigan attorney general, Bill Schuette takes time to talk up the team.

The former state Court of Appeals judge blames Democrats for driving the state's economy and public safety "into a ditch," and says he and his fellow Republicans -- from gubernatorial hopeful Rick Snyder to the party's nominees for the court Schuette served on for six years -- will get Michigan out.

"It's about a new Michigan," Schuette told a few dozen people during a lunchtime stop at Shield's Pizza in Troy. "It's about a fresh approach, a team approach." Later, he tells the crowd: "I'm working hard. No one's going to out-hustle me."

He makes a point to try to talk one-on-one with each person in the room, grabbing a piece of pizza without sitting down. While trying to reach as many voters as possible each day with events like these, the goal is bigger than his own election -- it's about setting up the whole GOP ticket for victory Nov. 2.

"We're going to get a big old broom," Schuette says in an interview. "We're going to sweep out the old guard in Lansing."

Schuette, 57, got his start in politics 25 years ago, serving three terms in the U.S. House before unsuccessfully running for the U.S. Senate in 1990. Since then, he's served as the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and in the Michigan Senate before being elected in 2002 to the Court of Appeals.

Todd Gambrell, a 41-year-old tax attorney from Schuette's hometown of Midland, started volunteering for him as a teenager during Schuette's first congressional campaign, and has stuck with him. He said the hard work Schuette embodies on the campaign trail is indicative of how he approaches his work.

"Bill motivated me to learn that giving back to the community that gave to you is important. Bill inspired me to get involved," Gambrell says. "I learned what it means to volunteer. I learned what public service means."

Public service, Schuette says, is an "important part of me." He credits his father, a chemical engineer with Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. who died when Schuette was 6 years old, with laying that foundation. Schuette's mother later married Carl Gerstacker, a Dow executive who served as chairman from 1960-76.

Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, who grew up next door to Schuette, served as chief of staff during Schuette's first term in Congress. He has seen firsthand since childhood the integrity and enthusiasm Schuette exudes.

"He's never become complacent or jaded in any of the jobs he's had," Camp said. "He brings a real freshness to whatever he does. He has a high energy, fresh approach. Frankly, that's what Michigan needs."

Schuette, who has spent the past two years with the law firm Warner Norcross & Judd in Lansing, says his experience as a judge, coupled with time in both the executive and legislative branches of state government, gives him a unique understanding of the challenges facing Michigan and credentials that are unmatched.

It's that lengthy government service that Democratic attorney general candidate David Leyton criticizes. Leyton, the Genesee County prosecutor since 2005, says Schuette can't promote himself as "something new" for Michigan when his resume includes years in both Washington and Lansing.

"I'm a total outsider ... running against a guy who I believe is an ultimate insider," Leyton says. "He's just not new. He's been there, done that and he failed. He failed to bring reform to Lansing."

Others in the race include Libertarian candidate Daniel Grow and Gerald Van Sickle of the U.S. Taxpayers Party.

Schuette had raised more than $1.1 million for his campaign as of mid-September, three times as much as Leyton, and spent more than $714,000. He leads his opponent in name recognition and is ahead in recent polls. But Schuette doesn't take anything for granted.

A former high school quarterback who says his football career beyond that was "in my dreams," Schuette credits his wife, Cynthia, with being the "glue that keeps the family together" in his absence. When he's not on the road for the campaign, he's proofreading college entrance essays for his daughter and trying to get to high school football games where his son plays nose guard.

Schuette tries to make it home each night to Midland, and when he doesn't he overnights at the homes of friends or relatives instead of hotels to save money. He sees himself as being a good steward of the campaign's resources, like he would be as attorney general. It's a frugality he says he learned from his mother, and that's evident on the trail.

During the recent taping of a segment at WXYZ-TV's studios in Southfield, Schuette opened the left side of his jacket to reveal a campaign sticker stuck to the inside. He said he keeps a sticker from one campaign stop there in case he'll need it down the road, when he'll be able to pull it out and reuse it.

"Then I think of my mother," he says. "You don't waste resources."

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Online:

Schuette campaign: http://www.billschuette.com

Published: Thu, Oct 21, 2010

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