MDP MEMO | Failure to Launch: In the Race for Governor, There Are No Republicans To Be Found

To: Interested Parties

From: Lavora Barnes, Michigan Democratic Party Chair

If this were 2017, the campaign for governor of Michigan would already be entering its fifth month (or if you’re Jim Hines, the 14th). This time, things are a little different. 

Between Ron Weiser calling for the “assassination” of his fellow Republicans, getting censured for it, and figuring out how to ram through a disastrous anti-voter package that would make it harder for Michiganders to participate in democracy, sourcing a credible candidate for governor appears to be several miles behind the backburner for the embattled MIGOP co-chair. 

Meanwhile, disillusioned conservatives are convinced party leaders “don’t care about your voice…don’t care about you.” Instead of fielding a viable candidate, co-chair Meshawn Maddock has had to spend her time begging Republicans to not give up on the GOP despite also being frustrated with the party she leads. “Don’t turn your back on the Republican Party,” Maddock pleaded. “I know you’re angry. I’m angry too. Don’t walk away from the Republican Party.”

As stated this week in the Detroit Free Press, “The GOP has no top-tier candidate for governor and no assurances it will get one.” With days to go until May, here’s how the “slow to mature” Republican primary is looking so far:

  • In a major recruitment failure for both national and state-based Republican leadership, party darling and career politician Candice Miller said back in January that she wants absolutely zero parts of the race for governor, choosing to remain in her current position as public works commissioner for Macomb County. 
  • Former MIGOP chair and current Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel also passed on a run, opting instead to lead the national party for two more years. We get it. Why trade one clown car for another?
  • With two statewide losses already under his belt, John James is taking a hard look in the mirror (ok, his internals) and deciding if losing statewide office for the third straight cycle in a row is really how he’d like to be remembered. He also started a federal PAC  — a weird move for someone considering state office — and has been huddling with the Republican Governors Association. The RGA is apparently so desperate for a credible candidate that they are willing to coronate a two-time loser in the primary for severe lack of a better option.
  • Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey made it “pretty darn clear” that he has better things to do than throw his name in the gubernatorial primary ring. ‘Better things’ seem to include propping up the Big Lie in Michigan by spearheading a slate of voter suppression bills that are more restrictive than Georgia’s
  • Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido continues to rack up allegations of either making women uncomfortable with his lewd comments, touching them inappropriately, or both. Earlier this month, he exploded when pressed by reporters to address his behavior on ‘Off The Record’. He’s also been sacked with an ethics complaint for “using his newly elected office to pursue a politically-motivated investigation against the governor of Michigan to advance his own political interests.”
  • Tea Partier and 2018 gubernatorial also-ran Patrick Colbeck is currently staring down the barrel of a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems as he continues “knowingly sowing discord” by baselessly maintaining that the company abetted widespread election fraud in the 2020 general. This month, Republican State Senator Ed McBroom sent Colbeck a letter blasting the conservative for his “willingness to persist with failed arguments and to associate with those who are known liars.” So far he’s grifted “over 1 million” from donors in his pursuit of the Big Lie and is back at it, attempting to hold fundraisers for his newly minted legal defense fund. 
  • Lena Epstein has not been on a ballot since her loss to Rep. Haley Stevens in 2018 and has kept a low profile since serving as co-chair of Trump’s Michigan operation. Don’t mistake that for her not being completely lost in the MAGA sauce though. She’s referred to the one-term, twice-impeached disaster of a former president as an “incredibly kind and very respectful” person.
  • Talk radio host Tudor Dixon has been demonstrating that this primary (should it ever get off the ground) may well devolve into a race to the bottom in which everyone tries to out-Trump each other while issues that actually matter to Michiganders get sidelined. As COVID-19 ravaged Michigan, Dixon spoke at a rally in support of a local restaurant owner that refused to comply with statewide mandates to cease operations. An interesting choice for someone that would most likely label herself a “law and order” candidate. Predictably, the establishment in question — revered in conservative circles for not requiring masks or social distancing — served a patron that tested positive for coronavirus, putting a number of individuals at risk and prolonging the impact of this pandemic.
  • Businessman Kevin Rinke also met with the RGA, but that doesn’t mean he’s not doing the same thing as every other person on this list not named John James: waiting to see if John James blinks.
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