Republican businessman Pete Hoekstra has made Michigan his home and is running as a Republican candidate for governor in a race that could profoundly affect the future of the blue state.
Hoekstra says he will spend at least $10m of his own money on his campaign and has hired a campaign manager and a finance director.
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“Yes, we’re going to spend enough to win,” Hoekstra told the Guardian. “My goal is to tell the truth and have our positions and my ideas be widely accepted. Then I will stay true to that belief that there should be an independent voice in Michigan.”
Hoekstra, who ran for governor in 2014, sees himself as a populist alternative to a government that he claims is out of touch with everyday working people.
“I don’t think the government has the tools to fix our economy,” he said. “I don’t think the government can fix Michigan’s bridges.”
In August Hoekstra called for a “common sense, middle-class tax package”. Hoekstra has said a driver of the state’s deficit “isn’t the federal government but rather our own government” and the state can’t even close its budget gaps without laying off thousands of public workers.
On education Hoekstra said children need to “learn about what America is about” so they “don’t live their lives in their parents’ minds”.
“But the problem is – getting people from the bubble to the world is like pulling teeth,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that’s why we’re having this huge drop in enrollment; I would say it’s that families can’t easily absorb the cost of college. And now people are buying homes that they can’t afford.”
Hoekstra said Michigan education grants that are given to students should be made public, in part because the students “don’t know how expensive they are to taxpayers”.
On economic issues Hoekstra said unions have protected “bullies” and that Republicans in state legislatures should pass a bill to allow for Republican governors to have freedom to pass legislation and to carry out their policies.
Hoekstra’s remarks include a description of living wages and paid leave as “a socialist” effort that would “destroy” small businesses.
“Having public schools means public employees get paid, because they can pull their kids out, and business will close,” he said. “That is socialism and I don’t believe it should be in this country.”
The former congressman spent time working in China and believes that “freedom” can be a “compassionate” guiding principle for the country.
“There are a lot of things about capitalism and freedom that are difficult,” he said. “But compassion is a more difficult thing. You have to have compassion for people who are in harm’s way in this country.”
Hoekstra acknowledged that Trump and the Republican administration has “hit the skids a little bit” in parts of the country, including his home state.
“The president has done so much right for this country that there’s enough for me to defend him,” he said. “I truly believe in his vision and in his movement. You have to have the confidence that the momentum is moving in the right direction, and the momentum is.”
Hoekstra faces a fellow Republican in next week’s primary, Dana Nessel, who currently serves as the acting attorney general. Nessel and Hoekstra each hold a law degree and have degrees in public administration.
Hoekstra said he is confident he will win and feels as though he is helped by his “momentum”.
“On the campaign trail, what I’ve found, is that people on this campaign trail and those who are supporting me are willing to go on the record to say that I have proven to be someone who does not have a political agenda,” he said. “Those people have set up a 10-figure base. We’re not planning on losing.”