By David Eggert, Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Political newcomer Shri Thanedar is touting his career as a scientist in the first TV ad of the Michigan governor’s race, also taking swipes at President Donald Trump and term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in his bid for the Democratic nomination.
The 30-second ad, which will debut Tuesday — eight months before the August primary — introduces Thanedar as a scientist-chemist who worked on cures and medicines ignored by “big drug companies” and as a backer of a single-payer health care system. It calls the Republican president a “climate change denier” and the GOP governor an accountant “who brought us the Flint drinking water crisis.”
The ad will air roughly two months earlier than when Snyder ran his first gubernatorial ad eight years ago. At the time, Snyder — like Thanedar — was a wealthy businessman from Ann Arbor who was polling in the single digits.
“We’ve seen a great response to Shri’s message everywhere we’ve traveled, and we’re excited to bring that same progressive message directly to a much wider audience,” Thanedar campaign manager Brian Spangle said in a statement Monday. He declined to say how broadly and for how long the ad will air.
Outside Democratic consultant Josh Pugh, who tracks political TV ads, said Thanedar’s campaign spent $115,000 to air the ad on cable through Dec. 20 in the Detroit market and for a couple spots in the Flint and Lansing markets during the bowl games for the University of Michigan and Michigan State football teams. It is the first in a series of ads that the campaign plans to run into 2018.
Thanedar sold a majority stake in his chemical-testing company last year. As of October, he had given his campaign nearly $6 million and still had nearly $5.7 million on hand. It was more than double the combined accounts of other viable Democratic candidates: former legislative leader Gretchen Whitmer and former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed. They each will be eligible for up to $990,000 in public funding for the primary, depending on how many contributions of $100 or less they receive from state residents.
The ad shows Thanedar in a white lab coat and says the next governor “should get science.” It highlights his pledge to accept no corporate political action committee donations and calls him the most progressive Democrat in the race.
Trump and his Cabinet have often avoided talking about the science of climate change, but he has promised to pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Before taking office, Trump said several times that he did not believe in man-made climate change, including in a 2012 tweet in which he suggested it was a hoax created by China to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
A spokeswoman for Snyder, who has apologized for his administration’s role in the lead contamination of Flint’s water supply, declined to comment on the ad.
El-Sayed spokesman Adam Joseph said “being ‘progressive’ is not about what any candidates says about themselves” and El-Sayed has delivered “progressive results” such as providing free glasses to Detroit schoolchildren and increasing lead exposure tests.
Thanedar, an entrepreneur and immigrant from India who worked as a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, moved back to the state in 2010 after living more than two-dozen years in Missouri. There, he bought a small three-person lab and grew it to a 450-employee business only to lose the company to receivership and see his multimillion-dollar home foreclosed.
He rebounded by founding Avomeen Analytical Services in Ann Arbor and selling it for $33.6 million. He has denied accusations in a lawsuit that he fraudulently misled the buyer, whose majority owner is the private equity fund High Street Capital in Chicago.
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