ICYMI: Amid Volatile Republican Gubernatorial Primary, Ryan Kelley Continues to Surge Following FBI Raid and Arrest

Late last week, one of the five remaining candidates, Ryan Kelley, overshadowed the rest of the field and dominated headlines after the FBI appeared at his door and arrested him on criminal charges for participating in the violent insurrection on January 6th, 2021 that resulted in five deaths and 140 injured law enforcement officers.

Given the “pure chaos” that has come to define this Republican primary – including the fact that every other gubernatorial candidate and MIGOP leadership quickly leapt to his defense – many speculated that Kelley’s arrest may help distinguish him among the crowded field. 

Off the Record – 6.10.22

TIM SKUBICK (Host, Off the Record): [Kelley’s arrest marked] the first time in Michigan political history that a candidate for governor faced misdemeanor charges while running for the state’s highest office. […] The mere filing of these federal charges against him in the political arena is not the kind of publicity you would normally want. However, in this current anti government climate, some could argue it could actually help Mr. Kelley – with some voters. So Emily, what do you make of this story?

EMILY LAWLER (Detroit Free Press): You know, I think it has the potential to help, frankly. Ryan Kelley was sort of struggling with name recognition. Obviously he was plastered all over the news for this recently, and pretty immediately the reaction from some of the most ingrained Republicans was to sort of treat him as a martyr. So I do think that he could potentially pick up votes from people who maybe were torn between a couple of people or who were watching this process play out. You know, there’s a real potential that this could help him.

JONATHAN OOSTING (Bridge Michigan): […] The immediate impact, though, as Emily mentioned, is a bunch of name ID for him. I mean, Ryan Kelley has not denied that he was at the Capitol. This was known before, but he was not super well known. So essentially, this is getting his name out there. And yeah, he’s been already campaigning on this idea that he’s been on the frontlines fighting for Republican causes, fighting for former President Donald Trump and this, you know, gives him some credibility on that message. […]

CRAIG MAUGER (Detroit News): Yeah, I think this is going to turn into a referendum on how the people of Michigan view what occurred on January 6th. […] It plays into some other developments that are happening in this state. And primary voters, like Emily said, might say, “Hey, now I know Ryan Kelley, he’s standing up for us. I’m more likely to vote for him.” […]

SKUBICK: I think there’s no question that he gets more votes today than he would have…before the story broke. The question is, is it enough to put him over the top over the other four?

OOSTING: Yeah, I mean, I think this race is wide open. Right. And Kelly has actually been calling himself the front runner in this race because there was one poll from Target Insyght immediately after the five other candidates were disqualified that had Ryan Kelley at, well, number two behind undecided which was the clear majority. So I think this race is really unsettled at this point. And yeah, this gives Ryan Kelley a shot, you know, certainly to carve out as Emily said, his space more clearly in the primary. And yeah, I mean, it’s anybody’s race at this point. […]

Detroit Free Press: Federal Criminal Charges Could Help Ryan Kelley’s GOP Campaign for Governor

Facing federal criminal charges is almost never a boost to a candidate’s political campaign.

But in the upside-down world of today’s Republican Party and Michigan politics, few standard guidelines apply. […]

“Ryan Kelley got a big name I.D. boost today,” said Andrea Bitely, a communications specialist who formerly worked for Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Detroit News: Ryan Kelley’s Arrest Could Boost GOP Hopeful in Primary Race for Governor, Experts Say

Republican Ryan Kelley’s Thursday arrest on misdemeanor charges tied to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol could help his campaign for governor in the upcoming GOP primary, according to Michigan political observers from both sides of the aisle. […]

Thursday’s events gave the candidate publicity and name recognition at a key moment in the Republican primary race for governor, said Matt Marko, president of the North Oakland Republican Club.

“Among many Republicans, they feel this whole thing is a witch hunt, and it might bring him a certain sense of sympathy for having to go through an ordeal like that,” Marko said.

Other Republicans echoed those comments.

Michigan state Rep. Patrick Outman, R-Six Lakes, said there are many people who make up the base of the GOP who believe the probes into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, an event that began as demonstrations in favor of then-President Donald Trump, are a sham.

“It’s probably going to amp him up,” Outman predicted of Kelley. […]

The portrayal of Kelley as a “MAGA martyr” — an acronym for former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — could help him in the race for Trump’s endorsement, said Adrian Hemond, CEO of the Lansing-based consulting firm Grassroots Midwest and a Democrat. […]

Until now, the Republican gubernatorial field has been so crowded it’s been tough for Kelley to distinguish himself, said David Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University. […]

“It will undoubtedly help his fundraising,” Dulio said. “Right or wrong, this is going to get him attention.”
Richard Czuba, founder of the Glengariff Group, recently conducted polling on the primary race for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s June 2 debate on Mackinac Island. Kelley’s arrest could help him among the Republican primary voters who support overturning the 2020 election’s results, Czuba said. […]

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