Lansing Car whiz Bob Lutz to help Clark Durant, becomes finance chairman

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

AP Political Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- General Motors adviser Bob Lutz likes Michigan charter school executive Clark Durant so much that he's signing on as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate's general finance chairman.

Lutz told The Associated Press in an interview that Durant has "impeccable" business credentials, is a compassionate conservative and would be the best Republican to run against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2012. The well-known auto design guru's high profile could be a bonus for Durant, who's competing with former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and three others for the GOP nomination.

Also running are former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy and Gary Glenn of Midland, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

"Bob Lutz is an auto industry legend," Durant told the Associated Press on Monday. "Bob knows the American way of innovation, private initiative and support for free enterprise will put Americans back to work."

The announcement came the day before Hoekstra was expected to formally kick off his campaign with a series of business roundtables and press conferences across the state. His campaign announced Monday that Hoekstra had picked up the endorsement of former Attorney General Mike Cox, one of Hoekstra's fiercest rivals in last year's GOP gubernatorial race, and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, a tea party favorite from Tipton.

"Pete is principled, hard-working and my choice for the U.S. Senate," Cox said in a Hoekstra campaign release after announcing his support earlier in the day on Facebook and Twitter.

While Hoekstra also has the support of GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and many in Michigan's congressional delegation, Durant has the backing of three former heads of the Michigan Republican Party: current Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, Betsy DeVos and Spencer Abraham, who held the Senate seat Durant is running for until Stabenow defeated him in 2000.

Like Lutz, the trio says Michigan needs a senator who hasn't been a longtime Washington politician. Stabenow has served 11 years in the Senate after four years in the U.S. House. Hoekstra served 18 years in Congress before running unsuccessfully for governor. He now works as senior adviser at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a law and lobbying firm in Washington.

Durant, a 62-year-old Grosse Pointe resident, is president of the New Common School Foundation in Detroit and helped found Cornerstone Schools. He last ran for the U.S. Senate in 1990, narrowly losing the Republican primary and the chance to take on Democratic incumbent Carl Levin.

Lutz has known Durant for more than 20 years and serves on the board of the New Common School Foundation. He praised Durant for helping hundreds of inner-city students succeed and go on to college, saving them from what Lutz called the "quagmire" of the Detroit Public Schools.

"Clark did that out of a wish to improve society," Lutz said, adding that Durant is a leader and problem solver with proven results as a businessman and charter school executive.

Campaign finance records show Lutz contributed $1,000 in 2005 to Stabenow's last Senate campaign, although he later gave $1,000 to the Republican who ran against her in 2006, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. Lutz said GM asked its executives to contribute to Michigan congressional members who backed the auto industry, prompting his donations to Democrats Stabenow, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and U.S. Rep. John Dingell.

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from Democratic officials who could speak on Stabenow's behalf.

Lutz criticized Stabenow and Hoekstra in a letter to potential donors, describing them as "two career politicians" who have "voted for spending programs, increased debt ceilings and federal budgets that only make matters worse."

Lutz, who championed successful vehicles at all three domestic automakers, referred to Durant as "a tremendous product."

Published: Tue, Sep 13, 2011

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