LANSING, Mich. — Republican ex-Detroit police chief James Craig launched his campaign for governor on Wednesday, seeking to become Michigan’s first Black governor with a “law-and-order” message and criticism of coronavirus orders issued by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.
Craig, the eighth GOP candidate to enter the race, is the best known and is considered a serious contender, albeit untested in electoral politics. A former Democrat, the 61-year-old would be just the second Black major-party gubernatorial nominee if he wins the 2022 primary.
His campaign announced the formation of an exploratory committee and said Craig will conduct an upcoming “listening tour” of the state.
“I led as chief of police — and began my life — on the streets of Detroit,” Craig said in a statement. “Now it is time to travel the state and visit other communities. I will be talking with law enforcement, hosting small business roundtables, and meeting with voters in their homes to hear about the negative impact the current governor’s policies are having on their communities, their workplaces, and their families.”
Craig, who retired in June, had been signaling his intention to run for months. He has touted his efforts to keep Detroit safe during tense nationwide protests against police killings of Black people and has vowed to take his mantra of “success through self-reliance” to cities where Black and other voters overwhelmingly back Democratic candidates.
Republicans’ attempts to make gains in places like Detroit and Flint have failed. Whitmer, who won by nearly 10 percentage points in 2018, took 94% of the vote in the state’s largest city. In 2020, U.S. Senate candidate John James — who is Black — won just 5% of Detroit votes.
Still, Michigan is a swing state and Whitmer is seen as potentially vulnerable in a midterm election environment that typically favors the party opposite the president. While no first-term governor has lost in nearly 60 years, she will be the first incumbent to seek reelection at the same time her party controls the White House in 48 years.
She has raised $8.5 million to date this year, a record for a gubernatorial candidate for an entire non-election year.
Seven other Republicans have created campaign committees: Army veteran Austin Chenge of Grand Rapids; Bob Scott of Howell; Ryan Kelley, a real estate broker from Ottawa County’s Allendale Township who organized protests against the governor’s coronavirus restrictions; pastor Ralph Rebandt II of Oakland County; Kalamazoo chiropractor and lockdown opponent Garrett Soldano; conservative host Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores; and Articia Bomer of Detroit.
To qualify for the August 2022 primary, major-party candidates for governor must file at least 15,000 valid voter signatures, including at least 100 each from half of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts.
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