NEW: Charged Insurrectionist and Republican Gubernatorial Frontrunner Ryan Kelley: “I Am A Threat to Their Democracy”

“[The rest of the field is] all wishing they got arrested, which is how insane it is.” – former MIGOP executive director Jeff Timmer

Six days into in-person absentee voting and with just 35 days to go until the “circus” of a Republican gubernatorial primary finally settles, known and charged insurrectionist Ryan Kelley continues to double down on his radical extremism after the FBI raided his home and arrested him on multiple criminal charges according to new reporting from NBC News. Kelley is quoted as saying the United States is “not a democracy” and calling himself a “threat” to democracy.

Every other Republican gubernatorial candidate and both MIGOP co-chairs “rushed” to defend the self-described “threat to democracy” on the day of his arrest – despite knowing it was for participating in the violent insurrection on January 6th that resulted in five deaths and 140 injured law enforcement officers. Many have speculated that it may help distinguish him among the crowded field. 

See excerpts below on Kelley’s extremism and the “circumstances [that] have conspired to catapult Kelley to the front of the pack” and read the full report here.

NBC News: Ryan Kelley Was Arrested for His Role in Jan. 6. Now He’s a Front-Runner in Michigan’s GOP Primary for Governor.

By Henry J. Gomez and Allan Smith

Ryan Kelley was an afterthought in Michigan’s Republican primary for governor — a real estate broker who served on a local planning commission while cultivating a following on the far-right fringe.

But since the FBI arrested him on misdemeanor charges for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, he has emerged as a front-runner. Maybe the front-runner. 

No one else in the race, Kelley bragged here last week, showed the devotion he did by being on the scene of what turned into a deadly riot aimed at keeping then-President Donald Trump in power. In a GOP field scrambled first by the disqualification of two leading candidates and then by the FBI raid on his home on the day the House Jan. 6 committee began its nationally televised hearings, circumstances have conspired to catapult Kelley to the front of the pack.

“They talked about it all over the nation, all over the state of Michigan,” Kelley, 40, said in an interview. “It boosted my name. There’s been a ton of support.” […]

The Kelley surge, which has early echoes of Doug Mastriano’s recent primary victory in Pennsylvania, suggests the GOP could soon nominate another election denier who was on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 to lead a major battleground state. […]

His reputation as a “J6er” — a shorthand he uses with ease in conversation — may help him win the primary. […]

Kelley had long struggled to gain traction. He was polling in the single digits and was perhaps best-known for leading a right-wing group that called for Whitmer and other Democratic state officeholders to be arrested for enforcing Covid protocols. 

But the contours of the race changed dramatically when several candidates, including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Perry Johnson, a self-funding businessman, were barred from the primary ballot after they were alleged to have submitted fraudulent petition signatures. […]

The latest poll, released last week by the Michigan Information & News Service, found a three-way tie among Dixon, Rinke and Kelley. Trump has not yet endorsed a candidate, although he has spoken favorably of Dixon. Soldano may be the rival Kelley fears most, given their overlapping appeal to the far-right activist base. At a recent event, Kelley responded to a question about Soldano’s strong yard sign presence by boasting how he was the only candidate to skip a recent debate in protest of Covid vaccination requirements.

Jeff Timmer, a former executive director of the state GOP who has soured on the party, said Kelley has “arguably lapped” Soldano with grassroots supporters.

“Kelley’s willing to go to federal prison for Trump, for crying out loud,” Timmer said. “And so he’s wearing the martyr badge well, and it really sets him apart from all the other candidates.”

On Thursday, Kelley saw proof of his rising fortunes in a packed dining room at a restaurant near the Kalamazoo airport. Dressed in a tan three-piece suit, he got a standing ovation from a crowd of more than 100 who had come to hear him address a local Republican women’s club. As servers passed around plates piled high with hearty Midwest pub fare, he alternated between angry and giddy about his recent legal woes. […]

And during a week when the House Jan. 6 hearings have sought to show the fragility of democracy, Kelley mockingly seemed to reject that the U.S.’s republican form of government functions as a representative democracy.

“What sickens me is ‘We have to save our democracy … American democracy is being threatened right now.’ We’re not a democracy. We’re a republic,” Kelley said. “They see me as a threat to their democracy, and I am. I am a threat to their democracy, because we’re a republic which upholds the individual liberties and rights of the people.” 

For the moment, none of Kelley’s rivals appear prepared to hold his arrest against him in the primary. They, along with the state party and other Republicans, have treated Kelley with deference while suggesting that the charges against him are politically motivated. […]

Timmer predicted the show of unity would not last long.

“They will definitely turn on each other when it becomes advantageous,” he said, adding: “Ryan Kelley two Thursdays ago was not in the discussion. There was no viable path to victory. And as soon as the FBI kicked down his door, they all recognized that. They’re all wishing they got arrested, which is how insane it is.”

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