Moroun campaign concedes defeat on bid to head off public bridge

The Detroit News

By Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder’s pursuit of a new Detroit River bridge got a boost Tuesday as late election returns showed voters rejecting Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s Proposal 6 referendum on the New International Trade Crossing.

With 93 percent of statewide precincts reporting, the proposal to require statewide and local votes of the people before new publicly owned bridges and tunnels to Canada can be constructed was losing. About 60 percent voted “no” and 40 percent cast “yes” votes.

“Let’s get to building this bridge,” Snyder declared late Tuesday.

Moroun poured a record-setting $33.1 million into a Proposal 6 campaign dubbed “The People Should Decide” to halt or delay construction of the planned $2.1 billion NITC from southwest Detroit’s Delray neighborhood to Windsor.

“People saw through the ruse. This was not about letting the people decide. This was about protecting a billionaire’s monopoly,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “This was clearly an attempt to run a price check on the Michigan Constitution and it failed miserably.”

The Moroun campaign conceded defeat late Tuesday, but read the results differently than Snyder.

“It is clear the voters resisted amending the constitution, but it would be a mistake to assume taxpayers support a flawed government bridge that puts taxpayers at risk,” Mickey Blashfield, director of The People Should Decide, said in a statement.

Moroun, an 85-year-old billionaire trucking and logistics industry mogul, outspent a small opposition campaign by a margin of 20-to-1.

“We are happy with the investment made in this campaign on behalf of taxpayers and the 5,000 families employed by Ambassador Bridge family of companies,” Blashfield said. “Like any family business, we would do it again — and will in different ways — to defend economic freedom and limited government.”

Snyder accused Moroun of trying to protect his “monopoly” on commercial truck traffic at the border through ownership of the Ambassador Bridge, while Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. has said the first-term Republican governor is trying to put it out of business and made the ballot issue a referendum on the “governor’s bridge.”

On the campaign trail, Snyder got help from Roy Norton, the Canadian Consul General to Detroit, who repeated refuted the Moroun campaign’s claims.

“We saw it as self-serving, opportunistic and cynical,” Norton said of Moroun’s campaign.

“The people have decided in favor of a bridge,” Norton said.