DETROIT — Gov. Rick Snyder won a second term Tuesday, defeating Democrat Mark Schauer after a race in which the Republican touted an economic and fiscal turnaround and promised to keep Michigan on the right path.
Snyder, who downplays party ideology in favor of what he calls a "relentlessly positive" approach to governing, had to defend contentious decisions from his first term — including a tax overhaul that slashed businesses taxes but eliminated or reduced breaks for retirees and others.
His victory makes him the sixth straight Michigan governor to be re-elected at least once. The self-described "tough nerd" was a venture capitalist and former corporate executive before winning the governorship in 2010, his first elective office.
"We're going to build the Michigan back that we had before, but even better," an animated Snyder declared to supporters in Detroit. "The passion, the fire, the excitement, the conviction to do the reinvention that you've seen through this Tuesday, I'm going to have it on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and for the next four years. Let's go!"
Snyder led 51 percent to 47 percent with about 78 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday.
Snyder argued that his tax overhaul was fair and his moves were pragmatic, especially in aiding bankrupt Detroit and expanding Medicaid. He cast Schauer, a former congressman and state lawmaker, as a "professional politician" who would revert to government dysfunction.
Democrats, however, said Snyder's approval of a right-to-work law in a stronghold of organized labor and a ban on benefits for same-sex partners of government workers showed he is no centrist, "non-political" Republican in blue Michigan.
Schauer had hoped to become the first candidate to unseat an incumbent Michigan governor since 1990.
"Despite the onslaught of attacks from his billionaire buddies, we went the distance with Rick Snyder," Schauer said in his concession speech.
Sally Muse, 64, a retiree from West Bloomfield, said she voted for Snyder and pointed to his support of Detroit's bankruptcy.
"I sure don't want to rock the boat at this point," Muse said. "I think we're headed in the right direction. I wanted to stick with a proven record right now. He got us out of this mess we were in and that was caused by Democrats."
Suzy Fishback, 54, who voted for Schauer, said she was turned off by Snyder's decision to sign the right-to-work law that makes union fees voluntary, a priority of Republicans who kept control of the Legislature.
"Snyder has not done a bad job, but we cannot stop unions. Checks and balances — we need them," the Grosse Pointe Park resident said. "I have a lot of friends who are teachers. Younger people are going to come in and probably not pay dues."
Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.