There is little doubt that Michigan Democrats have never fielded such a strong batch of gubernatorial candidates. It's an embarrassment of riches. Given the GOP's relatively meager offerings, it's likely that whoever emerges from the Aug. 6 Democratic primary will win the general election in November.

For this, feeling humans can rejoice. The Engler era, with its rank classism and aristocratic trappings, is ending.

Who best to take up the mantle, to put people before corporate profits? To correct cynical, dehumanizing policy? To rethink ill-timed business tax cuts that have saddled Michigan with a $1 billion deficit?

We believe that person is David Bonior.

It's a tough choice. Either of Bonior's primary opponents, Jim Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm, would make good — perhaps even great — governors.

It's Bonior, however, who possesses the vision, integrity and tenacity to usher Michigan out of the Dark Ages and chart a path that can transcend mere survival and subsistence.

Michigan must aspire to greater things, and in his 30 years in public service, the past 26 in Congress, Bonior has never shirked a challenge, never wavered in his quest to make government smart, efficient and fair.

He is refreshingly transparent. There's never a doubt about where Bonior stands on an issue.

Expedience is not in David Bonior's vocabulary. He'd surely win precious votes in the primary if he would revise his pro-life stance — a position borne of his devout Catholicism. Yet he has refused to do so. While we strongly disagree with him on this issue — which is largely the province of the federal courts in any case — his refusal to equivocate is admirable.

He is highly respected in the halls of Congress, where he has assumed important leadership roles. He is, in fact, viewed across the nation as a quiet, eloquent, persistent voice of reason.

He is no partisan. He broke with Bill Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement which has cost this nation millions of jobs.

Yet Bonior's pugnacity in standing four-square against Newt Gingrich's dehumanizing campaign — and in exposing the speaker's elastic ethics — won him admirers on the left and respect on the right.

He is an unapologetic environmentalist and a good friend to education.

But it is his unflinching reverence for — and dedication to — the rights of hard-working Americans, his crusade to expose and defeat exploitation, that best recommends Bonior.

It was Abe Lincoln, a Republican, who said that government should exist to provide for the people those things they cannot provide for themselves.

Bonior best embodies this simple yet enlightened tenet.

He is, most importantly, a decent, principled man. Amid the often senseless cacophony of governance, it is this trait that will serve him, and Michigan, best. E-mail comments to [email protected]

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