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Shri, the dogs, and we

Apr 27, 2018

Shri Thanedar has a fascinating life story. Earlier this year he gave me his autobiography, The Blue Suitcase: Tragedy and Triumph in an Immigrant’s Life. I’ve only read parts of it, but it is more fascinating than most campaign biographies.

Last year, after selling much of Avomeen Chemical Services, the Ann Arbor laboratory he founded, Thanedar decided to run for governor, and has poured millions of his own money into the cause, flooding the airwaves with well-produced TV commercials.

As a result, some polls show him running ahead of the expected frontrunner, former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, in their quest to win the Democratic nomination for governor in Michigan’s August 7th primary.

Now, I don’t know anyone who really thinks Thanedar will win, other than the candidate himself. The conventional wisdom is that the Whitmer campaign will soon start spending serious money on TV, and retake the lead. Nor, frankly, do I know many people who actually think Shri, as he likes to be called, should win.

That’s not because they don’t like him, or his mainly sensible positions. But he has lived in Michigan less than a decade, and has no experience in government. Our last two governors had little or no experience in Lansing, and it cost them.

Governing is not easy, as both Jennifer Granholm and Rick Snyder found out. In his time, John Engler was rather good at it, because he was in the legislature for 20 years first.

We sometimes think politics is just about schmoozing, but it’s not. Most people would probably find Granholm a better dinner party guest than Engler, and Thanedar is the bubbliest of them all. But if Shri ever had a chance of being a governor for we, as his ads put it, I think it ended with the story this week about the abandoned dogs and monkeys.

Eight years ago, after a previous company he owned went bankrupt, its testing facility in New Jersey was seized by the Bank of America with 118 beagles and 55 macaque monkeys inside. It clearly never occurred to Thanedar to worry about them; he told the Huffington Post two days ago “I have no knowledge how well the bank took care of the animals.”

Fortunately, the story doesn’t have a horrible ending. Former lab workers climbed the fences for days to feed the animals; eventually, the monkeys were rescued by an animal rights group and the beagles saved and adopted.

Thanedar claimed to be an animal lover, but I don’t think that will wash; the beagles were kept in small Plexiglas crates and subjected to toxicology tests. I know one Michigan native who could tell him about animal cruelty allegations and politics.

Mitt Romney once drove 650 miles with his Irish setter in a crate on the top of his car. The terrified dog, Seamus, was stricken with diarrhea, which cascaded down the windshield. When he first told this story, Romney appeared to think it was funny.

Dog-loving voters didn’t. Bumper stickers appeared with a picture of a dog and the slogan, “I ride inside.” Guess who never rode in an inaugural parade?

That was bad enough, but Romney never tested toxic chemicals on Seamus. I don’t know who the next governor will be. But I’d bet their name won’t rhyme with we.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.