Tuesday Readout: James Craig’s Low Down, No Good, Very Bad Reboot

LANSING — As Gongwer’s Zach Gorchow aptly pointed out yesterday morning, “there’s a new contender for the crown” of “messiest gubernatorial campaign announcement event.” It’s fitting that the crown goes to none other than Republican James Craig, the candidate MIGOP insiders are determined to coronate in this crowded and divisive primary for governor. 

All the rigged goodwill Michigan Republican insiders have to offer did little to blunt what should’ve been an easy reboot day for the party favorite but was very far from it. The Detroit Dodger retreated to the familiar territory of a protected venue with a controlled audience. Key excerpted points of yesterday’s coverage below:

1) Michiganders once again were left in the dark as Craig declined to apply any substance to his campaign for governor.

MLive: Former Detroit police chief James Craig officially dove into the race for governor in his hometown amid a stream of protestors, but onlookers will have to watch his campaign closely to find out what exactly his candidacy means. […]

Detroit Free Press: He never articulated how he would have fought the pandemic differently. […]

Fox 2 Detroit: Even with little uncertainty about his political ambitions in 2021, Craig has spent his retirement from the Detroit police department primarily behind the scenes, apart from the occasional speech and TV interview. 

WDET Detroit: Without offering his own plan to mitigate the spread of the disease, Craig criticized the Biden administration’s policies to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

2) The Detroit Dodger couldn’t even muster an answer on how he would address infrastructure in Michigan, going as far to explicitly state that it wasn’t one of his priorities.

Crain’s Detroit Business: When a Crain’s reporter asked Craig what are his plans for improving infrastructure and roads, he responded: “Well, one, I didn’t say that’s one of my priorities. However, I do think our roads do need to be fixed.”

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party seized on Craig’s comments that infrastructure is not one of his priorities if elected governor. “To be in the race for governor since June yet give such a flippant answer about something as major as infrastructure is entirely unacceptable,” MDP spokeswoman Rodericka Applewhaite said in a statement.

Detroit Free Press:  He referenced infrastructure, education and the pandemic at points during the speech, but did not mention any of these issues when asked about the top priority of his campaign. […]

But asked whether [law enforcement] is his campaign’s top priority, Craig said no. […]

​​Instead of picking one or two top priorities, Craig repeatedly…used his introductory speech to emphasize he’s already focused on his potential Democratic opponent. […]

Asked about his own plan to improve infrastructure, Craig said, “I didn’t say that was one of my priorities. However, I do think our roads do need to be fixed.” […]

MLive:  He declined to lay out a plan for infrastructure improvements.

3) Craig once again dodged on giving a clear answer on the 2020 election and January 6th insurrection.

Detroit Free Press: He said he has not seen evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, but heralded the widely criticized effort in Arizona to “audit” voting results. […]

Craig largely tried to avoid wading too deeply into some of the biggest questions still percolating in Republican politics: Does he believe and support misinformation spread by former President Donald Trump and others that the 2020 election was rigged or stolen? […]

Asked after an event in August whether he believes Trump’s claims, Craig said, “If there was evidence, if there was a proper investigation that the election was stolen,” before trailing off and stating, “I don’t have that information.” 

On Tuesday, he said he had not seen any evidence of fraud but supported audit efforts across the country. 

Fox 2 Detroit: Among the topics Craig has been most pressed on is his opinion of the 2020 election. Conspiracy theories continue to swirl around its result as the former president has continued to push the false narrative it was stolen.

When pressed for his take on the election, Craig cited voter integrity as being “critically important” but demurred on whether he believed the election was stolen. “Like I said, if there’s an investigation that says ‘yes,’ I have not seen that,” Craig said.

4) After fleeing his original kickoff venue, a public park, Craig reverted once again to the familiar — a tightly controlled environment to conduct a press conference.

Deadline Detroit: Talk about a misfire: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s long-promised official entry into the Michigan gubernatorial race ended in embarrassment Tuesday as protesters from Detroit Will Breathe cut short and drowned out his speech.

Crain’s Detroit Business: After less than half a minute, Craig and his entourage left the podium area and hurriedly walked across the lawn followed by protesters to a black SUV that quickly sped off after Craig got inside.

The chaotic scene marked the official start of Craig’s bid to be the Republican nominee for governor in 2022. […]

Unlike the island state park, which is open to the protesting public, the sprawling 18-acre office complex on the riverfront has a gated entrance and Craig’s campaign personnel were checking identification of reporters and supporters at the gate.

Holland Sentinel: Former Detroit police chief James Craig was at least temporarily unable to formally announce his bid for governor Tuesday morning as protesters swarmed his Belle Isle event. […] 

Moments after Craig sped away in a black SUV, his spokesman said he’d be back at some point.

Fox 2 Detroit: James Craig’s planned speech on Belle Isle where the former police chief was expected to announce his candidacy for governor was derailed after protesters gathered at the podium. […]

Craig still managed to make a short appearance in an effort to break through the noise, saying he was running for governor. […] “I’m running for governor of the state of Michigan. Running for governor of the state of Michigan. Let’s go.”

Then, followed by protesters, he walked back into his vehicle.

Detroit Free Press: Appearing on Belle Isle, the political newcomer waited for about 20 minutes before heading to a podium,  where he was immediately mobbed. After several attempts to speak as critics screamed and pressed in from all sides, Craig shouted, “I’ve got one thing to say: I’m running for governor!” Then he walked away […]

The Detroit News: The second press conference was held at The Icon at 200 Walker. The entrance to the riverfront building is gated. Not only did guards check IDs before cars were allowed admission, supporters and the media were escorted up to the eighth floor balcony in small groups.

5) Lacking any evidence, James Craig baselessly claimed protesters were paid to demonstrate.

The Detroit News: Former Detroit police chief James Craig entered the 2022 Michigan governor’s race Tuesday with a one-sentence kickoff announcement at Belle Isle, but then was interrupted by protesters… […]

“At the second press conference, Craig called the dissenters a “small group of paid protesters” who never should’ve been allowed to heckle his rally. […]

Craig was asked how he knew the protesters were paid. “Admittedly, I don’t” have evidence of money changing hands, Craig said. 
Detroit Free Press: ​​The former police chief called the protesters radical paid activists who do not speak for most Detroiters. He later acknowledged, “I feel like they were paid. I don’t have any hard evidence, but I feel like they were paid.” […]

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