Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer hires senior strategist for 2022 campaign 

By: - June 23, 2021 9:46 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigns for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden | Whitmer office photo

Ahead of the 2022 Michigan gubernatorial election, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has hired Preston Elliott, a veteran Democratic campaign strategist, to join her reelection campaign, according to the Guardian U.K. 

A spokesperson for Whitmer’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

Elliott has run several successful Democratic U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns across the U.S. including in North Carolina, California and Montana. In 2020, he ran Texas Democrat M.J. Hagar’s high-profile campaign for U.S. Senate, which she lost to GOP Sen. John Cornyn. 

Whitmer has been a target for national and state Republicans since her election in 2018, but particularly for her tough restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ron Weiser, Michigan Republican Party chair, said Whitmer and fellow Democrats, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, should be “burning at the stake” and gave them the moniker of “witches.”

Former President Donald Trump also encouraged his Twitter followers to “Liberate MIchigan” after Whitmer shut down many businesses and issued health restrictions in April 2020 during the early days of the pandemic when Michigan was one of the hardest-hit states. Trump also bashed the governor at a rally in Lansing in October following an FBI investigation into an alleged militia plot to allegedly kidnap and kill Whitmer. 

Currently, there are at least five Republicans running: Grand Rapids Republican Austin Chenge, right-wing television commentator Tudor Dixon, Allendale Township Planning Commissioner Ryan Kelley, Kalamazoo chiropractor Garrett Soldano and Evan Space, who did not make it on the 2018 ballot. 

James Craig, the former Detroit Police chief, is seen by many analysts as the strongest competition against Whitmer in the race and has met with both the Republican Governors Association and the head of the Michigan GOP, but has not yet announced his bid. As for other potential Republican opponents, former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield has not ruled out a run. Some GOP leaders believe John James, a businessman who lost two bids for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and 2020, could be a strong contender.

Whitmer has already raked in roughly $5.6 million through December of last year for the 2022 election thus far. 

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.