LANSING – As many as 10 Republicans – believed to be a record number – are expected to have their names on Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary ballot for the right to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November, based on petitions filed ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
It’s not good news for a Michigan Republican Party that had hoped to unite early around a single candidate.
The large field means candidates will collectively need to spend many millions of dollars from Republican donors before it is known who will oppose Whitmer, who is sitting on a large and growing campaign war chest to seek a second four-year term.
“It’s a disaster,” said Mike Murray, owner of Murray Communications, an Okemos-based firm that does consulting for Republican and nonpartisan candidates.
“The primary is going to be a meat grinder and whoever emerges as the nominee is going to be broken, bloodied, and disliked by 70% -plus of Republicans who supported one of the other candidates. And all the while, Whitmer keeps adding to her mountain of cash. “
Gus Portela, a spokesman for the state GOP, disagreed.
“Multiple candidates running for governor simply speaks to frustrations with the governor,” and her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Portela said.
“I’m confident Republican donors are going to rally behind the nominee, whoever that is.”
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Former President Donald Trump, who has strong support among the Michigan Republican base, has not yet made an endorsement for governor. A Trump endorsement would prove significant for any candidate, if not decisive.
The crowded primary also broadens the potential for Democratic meddling and mischief-making in the GOP primary, since Whitmer faces no primary opponent and Democrats who vote in the primary are free to choose a Republican ballot if they choose. Such crossover voting has happened before, such as in the 2000 presidential primary, when Democrats helped deliver Michigan to John McCain over George W. Bush in what was largely seen as a rebuke to then-Michigan Gov. John Engler.
Polls have consistently shown former Detroit Police Chief James Craig leading the Republican field, but with nowhere near majority support.
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“I say this with a lot of humility – I am the candidate to beat,” Craig said Monday as he delivered 21,735 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office in downtown Lansing.
Despite Craig’s comments Monday, “there’s no front-runner because Trump has not yet endorsed,” Murray said. “Whomever he endorses will instantly become the prohibitive favorite in a 10-plus candidate field.”
The other Republican candidates who have filed to run for governor are:
- Byron Center businesswoman Donna Brandenburg, who turned in 19,500 signatures last Thursday;
- Michigan State Police Capt. Mike Brown, of Stevensville, who submitted 21,837 signatures last Tuesday;
- Norton Shores businesswoman Tudor Dixon, who submitted 29,735 signatures Tuesday;
- Oakland County “quality guru” and businessman Perry Johnson, who submitted 22,700 signatures Tuesday;
- Ottawa County real estate agent Ryan Kelley, who filed 20,100 signatures last Wednesday;
- Grand Haven financial adviser Michael Markey, who submitted 21,862 signatures March 18;
- Farmington Hills pastor Ralph Rebandt, who turned in 16,342 signatures last Tuesday;
- Bloomfield Hills businessman Kevin Rinke, who filed 21,000 signatures on Monday, and
- Kalamazoo chiropractor Garrett Soldano, who was the first to turn in his petition, when he submitted 20,200 signatures Jan. 19.
Three others – Livingston County evangelist Bob Scott, Lansing businessman Evan Space, and Justin Giroux, a Barry County salesman who last year switched his party affiliation to Republican from Democrat – had announced their candidacies but were not expected to meet Tuesday’s 4 pm filing deadline, meaning their candidacies will end.
To get on the ballot, candidates must submit at least 15,000 valid signatures and no more than 30,000, signed by at least 100 registered voters in at least half of the congressional districts in the state. Candidates generally try to provide a cushion of a few thousand signatures to withstand possible challenges.
The Bureau of Elections will review the petitions before making recommendations to the Board of State Canvassers as to whether they contain sufficient signatures, said spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer. Any challenges must be submitted by April 26.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said each of the GOP candidates for governor “is pushing an agenda that aims to hamper our economy, ban access to reproductive health care, and drastically undercut law enforcement and public education.” She said Michigan families “are fortunate to have a leader in Gov. Whitmer who has worked with anyone to keep us first.”
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our election newsletter.
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