Like a lot of women, Pam Colestock was thrilled to cast a ballot for Michigan's first female governor.
But four years later, Colestock isn't pleased with Gov. Jennifer Granholm's performance and she's looking beyond gender this time.
"I don't feel that she has been good for Michigan," the Eaton Rapids woman said. "I don't blame everything on her, but I don't like what she's done so far."
It's voters like Colestock that Granholm and Dick DeVos are fighting over in this year's election.
Latest polling shows that women, who account for about 53 percent of the vote, prefer Granholm over DeVos. But unlike the 2002 election, Granholm's support among female voters this time is significantly weaker heading into the Nov. 7 election.
Three weeks before the 2002 election, Granholm held a 22-point lead among women over Dick Posthumus, her Republican opponent. The latest poll shows her lead among women at 10 points over DeVos.
"That's the impact of the last four years of her not living up to the expectations women had of her," Lansing pollster Ed Sarpolus said.
Some say those expectations were too high for anyone, regardless of sex.
Women, and some men, looked to Granholm to take a hard-line approach with the Republican-controlled Legislature but to do it in a "Miss Congeniality way," Lansing public relations executive Kelly Rossman McKinney said.
"The expectations were unrealistically high," she said.
"They want her to be liked by everyone. But if at the end of the day you don't accomplish what people think you need to, who cares if they like you?"
That's the question Lesley LeBrun of Lansing has battled in recent weeks as she ponders whether to vote for Granholm again. An independent, the 32-year-old mother of one said likes the governor, but her family is suffering.
LeBrun's husband lost his job this year when a Lansing General Motors Corp. plant shut down. He now commutes to a job at Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek.
LeBrun, a real estate agent, and her husband debate whether they can afford to have another child anytime soon.
"I might look nice and well-dressed, but I'm just making do," LeBrun told a group of women earlier this month during an informal voter mobilization event at her neighbor's home.
"My pants are hemmed with safety pins. These shiny bracelets my husband found on the ground. My mom bought me these shoes. And this jacket is too small. But I can't afford new clothes. We can't re-side our house, and we don't even have a nickel put away for retirement yet."
The bulk of undecided voters are women whose families are suffering in Michigan's poor economy, Sarpolus said. The Oct. 10-12 poll of 315 women found 8 percent weren't leaning toward either candidate.
"Women are looking at their children and wondering whether they are going to be able to succeed," Sarpolus said.
"They're looking at themselves and their husbands and wondering if they'll keep their jobs or find jobs. They're not totally convinced she's been an effective governor. But they're also not sure they can trust Dick DeVos."
The tricky thing about women who are independent voters is that if they aren't convinced about either candidate, they stay home, he said.
Dina Krois, a political science professor at Lansing Community College, said women might feel a little left out of this race.
"The focus has clearly been on Amway and the economy," Krois said. "There hasn't been much yet on social issues that would draw more women into the race."
Granholm has attempted to inject the abortion issue into the debate recently, portraying DeVos' Right to Life position as extremist. She also held two pro-choice rallies in Lansing this year.
Addressing the issues
Granholm spokesman Chris De Witt said voters will be hearing a lot more about her stance on social issues in the final weeks of the campaign, starting with a pro-choice rally today at Michigan State University.
"Education, abortion, embryonic stem cell research. That'll be a major theme over the next few weeks," De Witt said.
DeVos spokesman John Truscott said his campaign's focus on jobs and the economy appeals to both sexes and that the hype over having a woman governor is over.
"There was a novelty last time with her being the first woman governor," Truscott said. "But this isn't an election on social issues. It's about jobs and the economy. We've got to get that turned around before anything else."
Gov. needs more time
Deb Perkins-Mizga, 55 of Lansing, said she'll vote for Granholm again.
The Democratic-leaning liberal said Granholm just needs more time to bring Michigan's economy out of the doldrums.
"You can't turn a ship on a dime," said Perkins-Mizga, who owns a commercial lighting business in Lansing. "It took me six years to turn around a small business. She's dealing with the whole state."
But Colestock, 40, said Granholm has had long enough.
The manager of a townhouse co-op in Lansing said that in the past three years she's seen a steady rise in the number of her residents leaving the complex to move out of state rather than buying a home here. That's why she plans to vote for DeVos.
"Too many jobs are leaving the state," Colestock said. "People aren't moving here. We can't keep going like this."
Contact Stacey Range at 377-1157 or email@example.com.
By Stacey Range - Lansing State Journal