Rick Snyder speaks like a corporate CEO talking up some newly discovered talent when he talks about Brian Calley. Snyder says Calley is young, but he's fine with it, "I think 33's a great age. He's had good private business experience. He's been a successful community banker, so great private sector experience and good legislative experience, and the other part of this is you shouldn't look at just age. This is how we build for the future is we get great young people involved in the process, and so we need more and more great young people like Brian."
Calley worked as a commercial banker in mid-Michigan before he was elected to the state House in 2006. He built a reputation as an expert on tax policy, and as someone who could easily work with Republicans and Democrats.
He helped Snyder develop his proposal to replace the Michigan Business Tax with a corporate income tax. But he's also run into some criticism as one of the authors of the Michigan Business Tax. Calley says he did the best he could under the circumstances, "I looked at it as we needed someone in the room who was fighting for small business and although I was badly outnumbered and there was no way it was going to come out how I wanted it to, at the end of the day we recognized the importance of small business in this state."
Bill Ballenger with Inside Michigan Politics says Calley should not cause Snyder any political headaches, and that's the first rule of choosing a running mate, "Do no harm. I don't think there's anything about Brian Calley that's going to send up red flags to anybody anywhere within the party, within the news media, within the electorate. I think he's a very solid guy."
Calley is not well known outside Lansing or his mid-Michigan district. He does not bring a regional base of support with him, but he is a proven campaigner who just won a hard-fought state Senate primary against an opponent who tried to portray Calley as too soft on core conservative issues.
Snyder faces similar criticisms within his party, especially on social issues. He favors allowing abortions for victims of rape and incest and to protect a women's health, and he is for embryonic stem cell research. Bill Ballenger says Calley could serve as Snyder's bridge to suspicious conservatives, "You look at Calley's record. You look at his rhetoric and it's hard to say that he's not very solidly conservative."
Calley has a 100% anti-abortion voting record in the Legislature, and that was welcome news to Michael Lessens. He showed up at a Grand Rapids town hall sporting a button that reads "Defend the helpless. Vote pro-life.'" Lessens, who supported another candidate in the Republican primary, says Calley's presence on the ticket makes him more comfortable with his decision to support Rick Snyder, "Brian Calley can actually give him a little bit more of an education on what's the pro-life position that says, there should be no exceptions, no compromises."
Calley's expected to have no trouble winning the support of the state Republican convention this coming weekend, where delegates will also choose t he balance of the Republican ticket, including candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, and the Michigan Supreme Court.
Snyder says he will stay out of those races and leave the choices to the delegates.