have done better.
Of all the candidates who could have had a lack luster debate
performance, you would not expect Virg Bernero to be one of them, but
yet, by his own admission his recent showing in a history making debate
on Mackinac Island "wasn't my best."
The Lansing Mayor, while owning up to how he debated, fingered the
format as the culprit. It did not have enough structure he complained.
With six other contenders hogging the stage and elbowing for
microphone time, somehow the scrappy mayor, who thrives on
confrontation and in-your-face politics, found himself trying to get a
word in edge-wise.
"The venue was tough," he reflected on a WILS-radio broadcast in
Lansing. "I was fighting for space and fighting for time…It is not
When he finally got his chance, Bernero was hyper, a tad preachy,
and often confrontational which is not necessarily a bad thing. But
when the dust settled, Bernero concluded, "I came off as kind of
Those who have followed him for years would go, "Yeah. So what's
so new 'bout that?"
Being obnoxious is part of his charm and certainly part of being
the Angriest Mayor in America. Take that out of Mr. Bernero and you
have Mrs. Benero who is a kind and motherly elementary school principal.
Bernero got caught up in a no-holds barred format that encouraged
a give and take between the five GOP and two democratic candidates. He
described it as a "free-for-all."
There was one moment when they were talking about confronting the
head of the Canadian government over the issue of slant drilling in the
Great Lakes. The hockey-lovers over there are doing it and all the
candidates on stage opposed it.
GOP contender Pete Hoekstra pulled off a great ad lib. Asked what
he would do with an uncooperative head of state, the West Michigan
Dutchman said, "I would take him down…" And then he paused as the
audience knew what that meant, but then he added, "to the Gulf of
Bernero followed saying he would talk nice to the Canadian Premier.
The debate anchor wanted to know, "As the angriest Mayor in
American, can you do that?"
"Sometimes, I can be nice," Bernero retorted to a burst of
laughter in the crowd.