DETROIT -- Republican businessman Rick Snyder, who promoted himself as an outsider able to ease Michigan's deep economic woes, was elected governor Tuesday on a promise to bring jobs.
Snyder easily beat Democrat Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, after being ahead in the polls since the August primary.
Michigan's 13.1 percent unemployment rate is well above the national average of 9.6 percent, and the state's jobless rate has been among the nation's highest for several years.
It was the first governor's race without an incumbent in eight years. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm could not run again because of term limits.
Snyder, an Ann Arbor businessman, kicked off his campaign with a Super Bowl ad in which he declared himself "one tough nerd." Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, was fighting to stage a surprise win with his pro-middle class, pro-worker agenda.
It was the first gubernatorial election without an incumbent in eight years and the first statewide election since the bankruptcy reorganization of two of Michigan's biggest employers, General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
Eric Toelle, 35, of the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores said he was a "die-hard Democrat" who voted for President Barack Obama and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who cannot run again because of term limits. But this time he went for Snyder.
"Let me put it this way: If you're going to build a house, show me the blueprints. You don't need to tell me how bad the bricks are," Toelle said. "It's no secret we are in a horrible economy. Bernero didn't show me the blueprint."
Polls consistently showed Snyder about 20 points ahead of Bernero since Snyder squeezed past four more conservative GOP politicians in the August primary by appealing to moderates. Still, Bernero sought to stage an upset and campaigned with former President Bill Clinton in Detroit less than two weeks before the election.
Snyder's steady drumbeat of ads highlighted his success in helping launch startup companies in emerging fields and his status as a political outsider.
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Bernero pitched himself as a mayor who has brought jobs and "cranes in the air" to his community while trimming the budget by millions of dollars. The man described as the "angry mayor" talked about his 84-year-old father, a retired autoworker, and vehemently defended autoworkers as GM and Chrysler descended into bankruptcy.
Jennifer Cox, 37, a bank teller from Lansing, said she voted for Bernero because of his track record in Lansing.
"I like what he's done with the city so far. He's got a proven record. We need more industry in the state and he's willing to fight for that. He's really fought for what the people want."
Snyder, who promoted himself as a moderate, picked 33-year-old conservative state Rep. Brian Calley as his running mate. Bernero, a former county commissioner and state lawmaker, selected Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence.
The next governor will have only a short time to craft a budget proposal. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says Michigan faces a $1 billion shortfall in the budget year that starts next Oct. 1. The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council puts the deficit even higher, at $1.5 billion.