Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidates Kevin Rinke and James Craig
Two GOP candidates running for the governor’s office in 2022 have set their sights on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approaches to economic development, mainly criticizing the Democratic incumbent that whoever wins the Republican primary is likely to run against in November.
Former Detroit police chief James Craig and Bloomfield Township businessman Kevin Rinke both gave speeches at the Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA) annual “Capitol Day” Thursday at the Lansing Center.
Both emphasized a hands-on approach to government and dealing with stakeholders, and both told MEDA members that they would do things differently than the current administration in regards to economic growth and team-building.
Comparing the state’s economy to the Detroit Police Department, Craig said the state needs effective leadership and talent attraction to be successful.
“We can talk about fixing potholes. But it’s not going to get done if you can’t build an effective team. It’s just not gonna happen,” Craig said, seemingly referencing Whitmer’s directive earlier this week to speed up highway pothole repairs. “So leadership truly matters.”
He also seemed to decry Whitmer’s actions to contain COVID-19 in the first months of the pandemic, like ordering social and business restrictions — which led to significant right-wing backlash, armed protests and eventually a foiled plot to kidnap and murder Whitmer.
In Whitmer deciding “unilaterally” to shut down schools and businesses, Craig said he wonders how many businesses were consulted. He added that he made his decision to run for governor after seeing what he perceived as a lack of teamwork and effective leadership in the executive office during COVID-19.
“I’m no scientist .. but I’m certainly not a politician,” he said.
Speaking with reporters after his speech, Craig was asked by the Advance how he feels about the current budget disagreement between Whitmer — who recently proposed a $74 billion budget to take full advantage of federal funding and better-than-expected state revenues — and the GOP-led state Legislature, who on Thursday passed a massive tax cut plan that would slash state revenue by billions of dollars over the next several years.
Whitmer has signaled that she intends to veto the legislation, calling it “fiscally irresponsible.”
But Craig said that he would go even further than the state Senate’s proposal to reduce Michigan’s individual income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9%.
“I think that’s a great start. Personally, I want to do better than that,” Craig said. “…I would want to be more aggressive than that.”
He declined, however, to say whether he would move to get rid of the income tax altogether.
“I would like to get rid of it. However, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that’s exactly what I’m going to do because I don’t know the unintended consequences of that.”
Like Craig, Rinke used the MEDA spotlight to promote his idea of running the state like a business.
He also promoted the idea of school choice and criticized critical race theory (CRT) for “forcing” school children to grapple with the color of their skin.
CRT is a college-level theory that examines the systemic effects of white supremacy in America. It is not taught in Michigan K-12 schools.
Rinke then told reporters that Whitmer “overpaid” in her $666 million tax incentive deal for GM’s electric vehicle plants.
“If the governor wants to take credit for sealing the deal, the governor should be the one that gets the grief for overpaying,” he said, after acknowledging that the GOP-led Legislature had to approve the funds.
“I haven’t talked to [GM President] Mark [Reuss] or [GM Chair and CEO] Mary [Barra] about it. But I have a suspicion that GM was coming no matter what.”
The businessman then said he has signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for a “$3 trillion investment” project in the state.
“I’m not going to get specific because I’m under an NDA. But I can tell you that in a 10-year period of time, the potential for $3 trillion investment in Michigan exists,” Rinke said, “…with people moving to the state because that is what is required to work in this emerging area. And it is critical for the federal government, it’s critical for our country.
“I believe it offers an opportunity for Michigan to rebound very, very quickly. And the best part about it is it’s 99% private business.”
Rinke declined to specify further. He said that identifying the businesses involved would “get into their intellectual property,” which is why he signed the NDA.
Craig and Rinke are among more than a dozen Republicans running in the August primary to challenge Whitmer. Other challengers include right-wing commentator Tudor Dixon, chiropractor Garrett Soldano, businesswoman Donna Brandenburg, Michigan State Police captain Mike Brown, Pastor Ralph Rebandt, former Allendale Township planning coordinator and Jan. 6 insurrection participant Ryan Kelley, “constitutional patriot” Bob Scott, veteran Evan Space, businessman Austin Chenge, financial advisor Michael Markey Jr. and multi-millionaire Perry Johnson.
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