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February 03, 1989 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-02-03
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Gregorian, who will assume the presidency of Brown Uni-
versity in April, refused to comment last week on any aspect
of the search, which ended up choosing current President James
Duderstadt.
Clark said he continued to support Baker. "Baker is very
conservative, but I thought it was bad business to dump a guy
I knew would get more votes than May or Taylor."
"As it was, we won only one of those spots," Clark said,
adding that Baker should have won the first nomination and
May the second. "Alan May would have run a real tough, nice,
straight campaign. The abortion issue would have faded in the
general elections."
May attributed Baker's victory to the abortion issue alone,
though he acknowledged that Baker himself had nothing to do
with the issue's emergence at the convention. May described
Baker as "very proud on his anti-homosexual views and his
views regarding South Africa."
Regent Veronica Smith (R-Ann Arbor) agreed. ".I think
what Al May said is a fair statement. I think (Baker) is more
conservative, but the party is more conservative now. I think
he does reflect the views of the Republican party."
But Taylor said Baker's stances are relatively moderate. "It's
only when he is held up to the much more stridently radical
positions one seesin Ann Arbor that he takes on a conserva-
tive light," Taylor said. "I think his positions are pretty con-
sistent with the mainstream of Michigan, not just the party."
"The perception of him on campus is that he is sort of a
stiff-necked, doctrinaire, uncompassionate sort of person,"
Taylor added. "But after I won the (first) nomination, he
wanted to meet with me and make me aware of what might
come up in the campaign. He was generous about his advice,
even though I could have beaten him in the general election.
"That was a very accommodating, generous thing to do."
Baker, who was born in Marquette, Mich. and reared in
southern Wisconsin, currently serves as president of
the Ann Arbor Group, Inc., a local construction
consulting firm. During regents' meetings, he speaks on
almost every issue, from University building projects to the
student code of non-academic conduct.
He is a tall, thin man with silvery hair whose soft-spoken,
polite manner doesn't seem to fit the labels he has received.
"He is really rather straight-laced," said Regent Thomas Roach
(D-Saline), who has served on the board with Baker since,
1975. "He drinks little, if at all. He doesn't smoke."
Roach said Baker surprised several University officials
around 1976, when the regents were discussing alternative en-
ergy sources during a retreat. Then-Vice President and Chief
Financial Officer James Brinkerhoff brought up a University of
Minnesota research project proclaiming that the manure from
10 million chickens could be used as an energy source.
"Regent Baker said, 'That's a lot of chicken-bleep,' and we
all died laughing," Roach recalled. "He is someone who does
not use words like that - he doesn't say 'bleeps."'
In the past, Baker has refused to respond to criticism based
on his views, except to point to his record and his state sup-
port. He has voted against every proposed University student
tuition increase, for example. And when he feels strongly
about an issue, such as the Mandela degree or his stance on
17

Regent Thomas Roach (left) has sat on the Board of Regents with Baker sinc

By

Steve

Knopper

Last Tuesday, I was a proud reporter. It was like pul-
ling teeth, but I had managed to convince Republican
Regent Deane Baker that I would write a fair profile
about him in The Daily.
You see, The Daily and Baker have never traditionally been
what you might call "political allies." During the last two
years alone, Daily editorials have called his comments
"bigoted," "myopic," "paranoid," and "vicious," and have even
demanded his resignation.
Campus activists, too, have plastered his photos on "Baker:
Unwanted" signs during protests of the monthly Board of Re-l
gents meetings. Members of these groups, such as the Michi-
gan Student Assembly and the Lesbian and Gay Rights Orga-
nizing Committee, object to Baker's rather conservative views.
But we'll get into those issues later.
Last Thursday, after spending the day interviewing his Re-
publican Party peers about him, I received another call from
Baker. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I've been thinking about it,
and because The Daily hasn't been fair to me in the past, I've
decided this interview will not be worthwhile."
I was dumbfounded. How can you write a profile when the
subject won't speak to you? I tried to convince him that my
article would represent both sides fairly, and give him an ade-
quate chance to respond to criticism and allegations.
He didn't buy it.4
My editors, though, still wanted the story. So I went back
and looked at the Daily articles. In an April, 1987, editorial ti-
tIed "Regent Baker must resign," The Daily criticized Baker for
his stances on several University issues.
For example, Baker contested granting an honorary degree
to jailed South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. He
has voted against divesting University funds from companies
operating in South Africa. He initially supported the student
code of non-academic conduct and his request prompted the
regents to pass a student protest policy last summer. And
Knopper is a Daily News Editor
Baker, above, in a campaign photo from one of his
three runs for the U.S. Senate

'If the people want to keep him in office,
then I don't really care. But there's a lot of
better people in the Republican party to
represent the University,'
-MSA President Michael Phillips
during a regents' discussion of campus lesbian and gay rights,
Baker demanded that the University investigate alleged
homosexual acts in Mason Hall bathrooms.
Statements like these led The Daily to conclude that Baker
is "a good reason for a student regent. He does not represent
the views or interests of the students, but he attempts to con-
strict their expression by any means possible."
MSA unanimously called for Baker's resignation last April.
And when the most vocal student activists - like MSA
President Mike Phillips, who once stringently opposed Baker
for being "the most homophobic, racist, sexist, paternalistic
person that I ever met" - criticize the University administra-
tion, they almost always cite Baker as an example.
But even after these comments and actions, Baker turned
around and won his bid for reelection to the University's Board
of Regents in a statewide election last fall. In fact, he was the
top vote-getter; the other candidate who won last fall, incum-
bent Democrat Nellie Varner, trailed Baker by more than
50,000 votes. In 1980, he received 1.6 million votes, more
than any other state candidate that year.
"If the people want to keep him in office, then I don't re-
ally care," Phillips said. "But there's a lot of better people in
the Republican party to represent the University."
Typically, regents sweep into office on the coattails of
more prominent races, such as president or governor. Because
many state voters have never heard of the regental candidates,
they simply vote with their party. Thus, victories by Ronald
Reagan in 1980 and George Bush in 1988 aided Baker to some
extent.
Baker, though, has a few edges which help his candidacy -
he is an incumbent with 16 years of experience, has a short

and catchy name, and has sought the Republican nomination
for U.S. senator three times. All of these qualities make
Baker's name better known, which can mean everything in a
smaller election.
But last September, he almost lost the Republican
nomination for regent.
Three candidates - Baker, East Lansing attorney Clifford
Taylor, and Birmingham attorney Alan May - vied for the
two Republican spots during the party's state convention. But
instead of relying on his incumbency to quickly snag the first
spot, Baker chose to leave it for Taylor and compete with May
for the second.
Even more strangely, most agree that May had been leading
Baker for the second nomination as late as Friday, Sept. 9.
May eventually lost out, largely because fellow Republicans
distributed a flier on the floor that Saturday exploiting his lack
of a position on abortion - though University regents discuss
few abortion-related issues. Baker, who is anti-abortion, even-
tually regained his support and won the nomination.
But thatFriday, many leading Republicans were supporting
the relatively unknown May over Baker, who was virtually
assured of a Republican victory in the state. According to for-
mer 16th Congressional District chair Lee Clark, a retired
Grosse Ile real estate broker, there was a "dump Baker" move-
ment.
Clark said current Regent Neal Nielsen (R-Brighton) and
former Regent Lawrence Lindemer encouraged him to vote for
May. Unusually, Nielsen publicly supported May and Taylor
during the convention.
Both Nielsen and Lindemer were unavailable for comment
last week, but Clark said they took issue with Baker's actions
during the University's presidential search last summer. Ac-
cording to reports in the Ann Arbor News, Baker called up
possible leading candidate Vartan Gregorian, director of the
New York Public Library, and encouraged him not to come to
the University. According to the News report, Baker told
Gregorian that he would publicize his opposition if Gregorian
pursued the job.

'I think (Baker) is more conservative, but
the party is more conservative now. I think
he does reflect the views of the Republican
party,"
-Regent Veronica Smith (R-Grosse Ile)
gay and lesbian rights, he will occasionally put out a long
"press release" outlining his views.
Jack Maxwell, a Birmingham businessperson and contribu-
tor to Baker's 1988 campaign, said Baker "does think deeply
about things and he does take stands. Sometimes he is not
popular because of that, but if he believes in it, that's what he
should be doing."
But others are put off by Baker's polite, yet to-the-point,
manner. "He was the nicest guy to work for - to your face,"
said Ypsilanti resident Earl Feldkamp, former president of
York Contracting Inc., which sued Baker's previous develop-
ment firm in 1982. "He was a great letter writer. He wouldn't
say nothing to (workers) to their face, but he wrote them nasty
letters."
In 1983, a Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge ruled
that Baker had to pay about $25,000 to York for contracting
work. Baker's attorneys had said his company would not pay
because York's work was unsatisfactory.
But in 1984, Baker's company went bankrupt because,
Baker told the Detroit Free Press, "This was a small business
and did not have the resources to survive." In the same article,
Baker cited high interest rates in 1981 as the reason for his
company's financial problems.
Because York sued the Deane Baker Company, not Baker
himself, York attorney David Foster said, "It's my opinion
that my client will never be paid by the Deane Baker Com-
pany." The company had no money, and was unable to Day.
Baker, who refused comment on the case last week, has
since formed the Ann Arbor Group.
"How far can a small company go before they don't have
no money?" Feldkamp said. "We won the fight (in court), but
lost the war," because York never received the money.
Now, Feldkamp said he has dissolved York Contracting,
and currently works as a plumber. Asked if he would start a
new, similar firm, he said, "With what? I have no plans," he
said. "I can't - I have no money."
See Baker, Page 17

The Bi
Name: Deane Baker
Family: Married to th<
four children
Residence: 4494 Scio C
Occupation:
President, Chief Execu
Founder of The A
consulting firm to 1
development industry,
1972-Present: Member,
sity of Michigan
1982. Republican candi
Sen. Don Riegle
1969- 1972:'Member, G
Board of Control
1943-45, 1951-53: Pilot,
Honors:
June, 1970 Received Ba
Construction category
Education:
Bachelor's Degree in Bu
versity of Wisconsin
MBA: Harvard, 1955
Other:
Director, Detroit Area C
America and the 1_
Committee.
Twice president of the Dt
Past Director of the G
Commerce, Detroit
Society of Michigar
Citizens Guild.
Elder, First Presbyterian

Baker has been criticized for his conservative views

PAGE 10

WEEKEND/FEBRUARY 3,1989

WEEKEND/FEBRUARY 3, 1989

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