Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar stopped by the Daily Detroit table during the Mackinac Policy Conference to talk about his campaign, his progressive views and respond to allegations that he left hundreds of research animals to die after his pharmaceutical company went bust in 2010.
Thanedar has become arguably the most colorful character on either side of the political aisle in the race for governor this year. He’s an immigrant from India who came to the United States 39 years ago, earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Akron and formed a career as an entrepreneur.
The Ann Arbor businessman recently filed his 2015 and 2016 tax returns, which show he has assets worth nearly $30 million, according to Bridge Magazine. Like his fellow Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Abdul El-Sayed, he’s refusing to accept corporate donations, but unlike his competitor, he’s plowing $6 million on his own fortune into his campaign.
He’s touting his rags-to-riches story, but his business history has proved controversial, with a lawsuit against him alleging fraud and reports that a pharmaceutical firm he owned in New Jersey that went bankrupt abandoned hundreds of research animals that had to be rescued by animal-welfare workers. He has denied responsibility in both cases.
“A lot of this is hype and smear,” he tells Daily Detroit, saying the animals were watched after and fed by the bank that took possession of the company. (Bridge’s Truth Squad finds his efforts to deflect blame to be false.)
Meanwhile, some polls have shown him ahead of front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, and former Detroit health director El-Sayed, who we interviewed yesterday.
On the campaign trail, Thanedar is touting fixes to health care and infrastructure, saying he wants to restructure taxes to help fund universal childcare and pre-K education, plus invest $1 billion in preparing residents for skilled trades.
“I understand how Michiganders suffer,” he says. “Twenty-some percent of our citizens are living below poverty. Forty percent of african-american children live at or below poverty. I know I have lived that life. I have gone to bed hungry. I’m the only gubernatorial candidate that can say what it feels lie, knows what it feels like to go to bed hungry.”
Have a listen to the interview in the player above.