Michigan gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar betting on himself — and progressive platform

First self-funded Bernie Sanders acolyte making waves in Democratic primary


DETROIT – If you watch television in Michigan in 2018, you’ve probably heard of Shri Thanedar.

The scientist and entrepreneur has contributed $6 million to his own campaign for Michigan governor, spending a significant amount of that money on TV ads that feature him prominently. These ads gave Thanedar the name recognition that helped him surge to a three-point lead over Gretchen Whitmer for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in late April.

His poll numbers have cooled off a bit since then, but Thanedar’s widespread branding of himself as a progressive not beholden to corporate donors has kept him firmly in the race. His campaign website outlines his beliefs on most of the significant issues facing Michigan.

Like his Democratic primary opponents, Thanedar wants to invest in education, including the implementation of universal pre-Kindergarten programs. But he also wants to ban for-profit charter schools statewide and make college tuition free for families earning less than $120,000/year. Thanedar’s infrastructure ideas include asking voters for a bond of as much as $1 billion to repair the state’s roads and bridges.

To address economic inequality, he plans to move Michigan to a graduated income tax system and raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. He also supports affordable child care, paid family leave, equal pay for women and marijuana legalization (the tax profits of which he wants to split evenly between infrastructure and education initiatives).

Finally, Thanedar’s campaign website advocates passing gun control legislation on the state level, increasing government transparency, preserving Michigan’s fresh water resources and expanding access to health care.

Though his platform seems nothing but progressive, Thanedar’s bona fides have been called into question by a number of sources. “Progressives are having a hard time understanding that someone with wealth can be progressive,” Thanedar has responded. “A lot of their concern stems from the fact that I’m a businessperson, so how can I be a progressive? And that’s where I’m seeing a lot of resistance from the establishment. They’re using every smear they can use to bring me down. But I am who I am.”

Check out where Democratic gubernatorial candidates Abdul El-Sayed and Gretchen Whitmer stand on the issues. And watch “Decision 2018: Democratic Gubernatorial Debate” Thursday, July 19 at 8 p.m. on WDIV-Local 4 or stream the debate live on ClickOnDetroit.com.