Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig has officially launched a campaign for governor of Michigan, joining a group of overcrowded Republicans seeking to overthrow Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.
Craig, who had openly explored racing since his retirement as chef in May, has planned a three-city launch tour, starting Tuesday morning in Detroit.
“The Michiganers deserve capable, consistent leaders who will always put people before politics,” Craig said in an emailed statement. “I have spent 44 years protecting and serving my community, including eight years as Police Chief in Detroit, and I’m ready to lead from the front lines.”
Well-wired Michigan Republicans – worried about a primary filled with politically inexperienced activists best known for protesting the Whitmer pandemic shutdowns or for instigating baseless doubts about the 2020 election results – had encouraged Craig’s candidacy . John Engler, a former Michigan governor, is helping head a political action committee that promoted Craig to governor, the Detroit Free Press reported last month.
A poll conducted in late August by EPIC-MRA showed a statistical link between Whitmer and Craig, with 52% of likely voters responding that they did not recognize Craig’s name.
Craig’s toughest primary competition could come from Tudor Dixon, a conservative media figure who drew several allies of former President Donald Trump to his campaign.
Craig and Dixon are among at least nine declared GOP candidates. The land includes Mike Brown, a Michigan State Police captain; Ryan Kelley, a local planning commissioner and founder of a group that called for Whitmer’s arrest; Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor who has made waves for leading opposition to Whitmer’s Covid restrictions; Ralph Rebandt, a pastor from the Detroit suburbs; and Austin Chenge, a businessman from Grand Rapids.
A 10th potential nominee, businessman Kevin Rinke, whose last name is familiar to his Michigan car dealership ownership, formed an exploratory committee last week.
Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic is a central issue for Republicans, who have seized the occasions when she or her husband appeared to ignore his mandates and recommendations. A May photo of Whitmer reuniting with a larger group than state health ordinances allowed has become a particular object of outrage to his GOP opponents. Half of voters in the recent EPIC-MRA poll said they viewed his job performance negatively – down from a positive 52% in the poll’s February survey.
“The inconsistent and incompetent response to the pandemic from so many career politicians, including our current governor, only further underscores the need for new leadership,” Craig said in Tuesday’s statement. “The failure of the response has permanently shut down thousands of small businesses, prevented our children from receiving proper education and destroyed their livelihoods.”
Allies of the Michigan Democratic Party governor have focused on Craig, calling him an establishment candidate who has avoided questions about Trump and is heading for a brutal primary against a militant base loyal to the former president.
Even if Republican Party insiders manage to push Craig past this messy and confrontational primary, they won’t have much time to turn to a unity campaign that will be key to winning a close election on the Michigan battlefield, ”Lavora Barnes, the state’s Democratic president, wrote in a note shared with reporters this week. “This crop of candidates is unlikely to resist the urge to cry fraud and instead line up behind anyone after the primary, let alone Craig who continues to dodge questions about his thoughts on 2020 and one. wide range of problems. “