Businessman Shri Thanedar Demands Michigan Democrats Pick A New Face To End 7 Years Of Republican Rule
Michigan media and the political elites are abuzz after an Indian-American businessman pumped $3.3 million into his bid for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor of Michigan.
According to state election filings made public July 25, Shri Thanedar, 62, has the largest campaign chest of any officially declared candidate for governor, local media reports said.
“I am an underdog. I intend to fight and intend to disrupt this Democratic Party way of choosing a successor,” Thanedar told Desi Talk in a wide-ranging interview June 28. “I want the Party to hold off on the ‘coronation’ of Gretchen Whitmer and take a look at my skill sets,” he added.
Whitmer, an attorney from East Lansing, and former State Senate Minority Leader, is the favorite of a pack of the four or so prospective and declared Democrats aiming for the Governor’s mansion after Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s exit in 2018 due to term limits.
Thanedar, who announced his run June 8, was born and brought up in Belgaum, Maharashtra. After a life of serious ups and downs, he believes he has the chops to deliver a “Stronger, Smarter Michigan,” if only the Democratic Party would get out of the box and support his candidacy in the August 2018 primary.
Even though the primaries are still 15 months away, the race appears in full swing, and Thanedar is getting in early to establish his credentials and raise his visibility. The $3.3 million infusion into his campaign coffers certainly got him that attention even if it bars him from receiving public funds. According to Detroit Free Press, Whitmer has raised $1.5 million going by her latest filing. She boasted that she had double the supporters of any candidate and more grassroots small donors.
At least two other credible Democrats are in the field for the primaries for governor – Former Detroit health director and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed; and veteran Bill Cobbs, former Global Vice President at Xerox. Two Republicans running for their Party nomination include frontrunner Dr. Jim Hines, and State Senator Patrick Colbeck. Some other candidates from both parties may declare their candidacy in the future.
Thanedar is banking on his life story and his achievements in the private sector, to gain the Party’s favor. He points to a life of great trials and solid successes, bundled with grit and determination — cleaning offices when he was fourteen to help his family after his father’s retirement, Thanedar ended up doing his Bachelors and Masters in India, then coming to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1979, to earn his Ph.D. in polymer chemistry followed by a PostDoc.
He joined a small chemical services company in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1990, as an employee, and ended up buying the firm and growing it from a tiny lab with a handful of workers to 400 employees with more than $60 million in revenue, according to his website. His wife died in 1996, and he brought up his two young sons before marrying again in 1999.
The bad times hit again. His business folded in the 2008 recession and he lost virtually everything including his home by 2010, he told Desi Talk. “My wife Shashi and I packed our assets in a truck and headed back to Ann Arbor, the place where I started and got my first job.”
Picking up where he left off, Thanedar bought a small chemical business that had folded, and again grew it into a successful enterprise, winning awards including, Entrepreneur of the Year for the Michigan region, in July 2016 from Ernst & Young. His sons, Neil, 28, Samir, 25, have their own businesses today, and Thanedar feels he is at a turning point again.
Why the desire to get into politics, and that too, a run for governor?
“When I had created so much value again, my wife and I thought — life’s not about padding our net worth, especially since the kids are also entrepreneurs and settled.”
“I could do charity or philanthropy,” he muses, “But I have so much energy and so much to give — to Michigan and the United States which have allowed me to achieve my dreams.”
He concedes he has no political experience. “But I know how to fight and succeed. I have faced adversity and overcome it (more than once).”
Thanedar says Michigan is going through enormous problems and the economy has to work for all, not just create pockets of affluence amid poverty. All branches of government have been under Republican control for the last 7 years, and he wants to turn that around, especially for small business where his roots are, he said. He also wants to hoist Michigan’s standing in education, “Because education was my ladder to coming out of poverty,” he says.
“And unless we win in Lansing, we cannot bring our agenda to Michigan,” he says, referring to the capital of the state.
Thanedar is not a stranger to the large Indian-American community in the state. He has served in the past as the president of the Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal, 2003-2005, and been on BMM’s board of trustees from 2005-2011, he notes. “Indian-Americans in Michigan are very proud I am running,” he claims.
“I can do nothing better with my money than to serve this state of mine. And I have some big, bold ideas and want to pursue them,” said Thanedar.
His multimillion dollar contribution to his own campaign locks him out from any public assistance to candidates, according to the law. “I don’t want money from corporations or dark money sources,” Thanedar said.
Right now his campaign team has a few paid staff, but he is planning on a 30-member team to help run for the primaries, with the $3.17 million cash in hand that he has, he said.