Candidate Getting Considerable CU Backing In Mich.

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Credit unions in this state aren't just getting behind the candidate at an unprecedented level; they're intertwined in his message.

The Michigan Credit Union League is backing Republican gubernatorial candidate David Bonior with mass mailings, electronic postcards, volunteer hours and a tour of newspaper editorial boards by league President David Adams in support of Bonior.

In turn, Bonior is pitching credit unions as a means of tackling issues related to low-income populations and has even gone as far as to announce he "loves" credit unions.

"Our governor's race is key for (Michigan credit unions) since we are undertaking the modernization of the Michigan Credit Union Act," said MCUL President Dave Adams.

Adams said Bonior, who is currently a member of Congress, approached him early on during the campaign, saying he would like to make credit unions part of his platform by advocating the role of credit unions in strengthening neighborhoods and communities.

Long before the congressman announced his candidacy, it was clear to the MCUL that he supported the CU industry, Adams said.

"He's been as good a friend as you can asked for in Congress," Adams said, explaining that he has fought to defend CUs' tax exemption, maintain regulatory independence and restore field of membership prerogatives. "He led the charge in his party (to support H.R. 1151) and helped Michigan become one of the largest states with co-sponsors."

Beyond Just Michigan

Patrick LaPine, MCUL's director of governmental affairs, noted that Bonior was chosen as the league's Federal Legislator of the Year in 1999 for his work on H.R. 1151.

"He was a leader of the Michigan delegation and a strong supporter beyond Michigan," LaPine said.

Bonior was also chosen for the same award in 1992. In his campaign literature, Bonior calls himself a "fighter for our cities," which includes neighborhood empowerment.

"As governor, I will work with the city to identify and eliminate unscrupulous check-cashing businesses and predatory lenders," it states. "We can use state seed money and modernize state laws to establish neighborhood credit unions to empower our neighborhoods financially."

During the most recent FOM struggle, Bonior made a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, touting his "love" for his own credit union.

"Love is a special word, one I use in reference to my spouse, my children, and my close friends," he said, later recalling the event to MCUL representatives. "But I stood on the floor of the House and said I love my credit union, and I really do."

The MCUL liked the story so much, its staff used it on an e-postcard urging credit union members to vote for Bonior in the Aug. 6 primary. The card can be accessed via the league's website, and includes an icon that enables readers to quickly "send this postcard to a friend."

The league also had 100,000 statement stuffers printed in support of Bonior, and MCUL President Dave Adams has accompanied the candidate during newspaper editorial board meetings. Adams said he didn't consider the support out of the ordinary and said the league has always been politically active.

"This is consistent with a very important election cycle," he said, noting that the league has a large political action fund. While Bonior has been running behind in the polls, (State Attorney General Jennifer Granholm is in the lead) Adams said, he's picked up some speed in the last month. "He's certainly within striking distance," Adams said. "The media has really characterized him as the only one showing real momentum."

'In Sync With Values'

Adams said the league's support proves that political activism isn't about going for the front runner, rather going with someone "more in sync with your values."

Besides, he said, the league has little to lose in supporting Bonior. If Bonior doesn't win the primary, he said the league will look to one of the two winning candidates that it thinks will represent Michigan CUs best.

The league and its leader would like to help Bonior make the last days before the election count with a daylong press tour to credit unions across the state.

Unfortunately, Adams said, the event has been cancelled three times in a week because of Bonior's obligations in Washington D.C. as Michigan's 10th district representative.

"He represents a real opportunity to us," Adams said. "I want to be a part of it if I can."

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