Ambassador Bridge owner’s bridge proposal looks headed for defeat, poll finds

John Gallager | Detroit Free Press

Nov. 2, 1012

Michigan voters appear poised to reject Proposal 6, the ballot measure that could delay or block Gov. Rick Snyder’s New International Trade Crossing bridge project, a Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll shows.

Only 42% of respondents said they were voting yes on 6, while 47% said they would vote no to reject the proposed constitutional amendment.

The poll of 600 likely voters in Tuesday’s election has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll was conducted by EPIC-MRA of Lansing from Oct. 26 through Monday.

Campaign experts say any ballot referendum trailing by 5 points, which is outside the poll’s margin of error, this close to the election is doomed.

A “no” vote on Prop 6 would mark a major defeat for businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun, whose family owns the Ambassador Bridge. He has spent more than $31 million on TV ads and other efforts to get Prop 6 passed. That’s a record amount of spending by one side on a state ballot referendum.

Mickey Blashfield, director of the People Should Decide, the Moroun-backed group pushing Prop 6, said he thinks voters will still approve it, despite its showing in polls. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV (Local 4) poll released Thursday showed Proposal 6 failing by a much larger margin.

“Michigan taxpayers want and deserve a voice on the bridge issue, and that’s why we’re confident they’ll be voting yes on 6,” Blashfield said.

Tom Shields, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Monopolies, an anti-Prop 6 group, said: “The more Moroun spends, the more voters are questioning his motives. People are realizing that Proposal 6 benefits only one person: Matty Moroun.”

Proposal 6 would amend the state constitution to require a statewide and a local vote before the state government can spend any money on a new bridge or tunnel to Canada. The measure is widely viewed as Moroun’s last-ditch attempt to block Snyder’s new publicly owned bridge, which would likely draw significant traffic and toll revenue away from Moroun’s privately owned Ambassador Bridge.

Snyder signed a Crossing Agreement with Canadian officials in June that calls for Canada to pay to build the bridge, with Michigan responsible for no costs. Canada would be repaid through tolls. On Thursday, Canada’s General Counsel Roy Norton was on a bus tour talking about Proposal 6 with Snyder.

“Let me raise my right hand and solemnly swear, the State of Michigan will face no cost and no liability,” he said.

Moroun’s ads have insisted that Michiganders will get stuck paying for the bridge.

The Moroun message seems to be playing best with those who pay little attention to politics. Proposal 6 was losing among men and women and among both Democrats and Republicans, but winning among those with an education of a high school diploma or less.

Prop 6 was losing among both self-described liberals and self-described conservatives, but leading among those uncertain of their political leanings.

Habib (Sam) Salehi, 77, of Okemos, a retired mathematics professor at Michigan State University, voted no on Proposal 6 by absentee ballot.

“The bridge is basically a gateway for the future of the United States,” he said. “Canada has been an important partner and is going to be more so.”

Salehi said he objects to one individual like Moroun controlling an international crossing.

Sandra Heltzel, 71, of Sturgis, a retired manufacturing worker, said she voted yes by absentee ballot because she was swayed by the Morouns’ TV ads that say Prop 6 will give voters a choice on state priorities.

“I voted so that the people could vote on it,” she said. “We have so many other things that need repair, and we need money for other things, for seniors.”

Among other responses:

Jim Rehberg, 64, of Eastpointe, who works in a Detroit chemical factory, said he will vote no on 6 because he likes the agreement to have Canada pay for the new bridge and “mostly, I just don’t like Matty Moroun.” The pro-union worker said, “Maybe this is the one time I agree with our governor.”

Jenny Dion, 39, a stay-at-home mom from Grand Blanc, said she will vote yes on Prop 6.

“I don’t want the bridge built just because it’s not clear exactly who’s going to pay for the bridge,” she said. “And I think the money would be best spent on police and teachers.”