Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig confirmed Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a declaration that comes the year after he was ejected from the 2022 primary ballot for governor of Michigan over fraudulent signatures. "I'm not doing it for ego," said Craig, whose last campaign experience would have humbled almost anyone else.
Protestors disrupted his 2021 kickoff rally for his quest to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and that was just the start of his troubles. Craig's campaign would experience several major shakeups, including the departure of two different campaign managers in less than four months, and it would also draw unfavorable press coverage for heavy spending.
The former chief also lost a high-profile endorsement from Rep. Jack Bergman, a northern Michigan Republican who griped that his former choice ignored his region "in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach." Still, polls showed Craig well ahead in the primary as he sought to become the Wolverine State's first Black governor.
Everything changed in May, though, when election authorities disqualified Craig and four other contenders from the ballot after they fell victim to a huge fraudulent signature scandal and failed to turn in enough valid petitions. The former frontrunner decided to forge ahead with a write-in campaign to win the GOP nod, blustering, "I'm going to win." However, Craig instead became an afterthought even before far-right radio commentator Tudor Dixon emerged as the new frontrunner, and he ended up taking all of 2% of the vote.
Craig went on to endorse U.S. Taxpayers Party nominee Donna Brandenburg, who had also been ejected from the Republican primary, saying that Dixon's extreme opposition to abortion rights went too far even for him. (James himself was recorded the previous year responding in the affirmative when asked if he'd stop Democrats "from undoing the law that makes abortion illegal in Michigan.") Whitmer soon won 54-44, with Brandenburg in fourth with just 0.4%.
The former chief launched his new effort weeks after former Rep. Mike Rogers joined the nomination fight, and Craig has already worked to position himself as the Trumpiest candidate. The new contender published a pro-Trump op-ed last month in the far-right Daily Caller, and the GOP's supreme master responded by sharing it on social media.
Rogers, by contrast, has had a bumpier relationship with Trump. While the former congressman briefly served on Trump's 2016 transition team, he told the Washington Post last year that "Trump's time has passed." Rogers, who considered waging his own presidential bid, also said of the Jan. 6 riot, "There is never a time in American democracy when violence accomplishes what you want … It is giving up on our Constitution when you storm the Capitol to try to change an election."
But Rogers, whom multiple outlets say the NRSC recruited to run for the Senate, now seems to have realized that Trump's time very much has not passed for the primary voters who will be determining his fate next year. The former congressman echoed the far-right voices in his party last week in a video proclaiming, "[W]hat we are seeing right now is a politically motivated DOJ waging war against the leading Republican presidential candidate on behalf of President [Joe] Biden." "This is not the mike Rogers i knew," tweeted former Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment after Jan. 6. "How did you fall so far mike?"
The GOP field also includes state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, who struggled to raise money during the first half of the year, and it may swell still further. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost renomination last year after voting for impeachment, formed an exploratory committee just before Labor Day. Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson, who got thrown off the 2022 gubernatorial ballot along with James, also said last week he was considering abandoning his doomed presidential bid to run for the Senate; the Detroit News also reported in August that another rich guy, 2018 primary loser Sandy Pensler, is thinking about another try, and the paper wrote Tuesday that he was still mulling it over.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the frontrunner in a field that includes actor Hill Harper, who launched his campaign in early July. Observers are waiting to learn if Harper or any of the other contenders raised a credible amount of money during the third quarter of the year or if Slotkin ended September as the only Democrat with enough money to run a serious operation.
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