Candidates hope to gain GOP nomination for MI governor

The Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island on Sept. 23, 2017.

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island continues as the party prepares for next year’s election.

Next year’s election cycle will feature a vote on most of the pivotal offices in the state. One race that will garner a lot of interest and coverage is the run for governor. The potential field is large. Republicans, Democrats, Independents and third party candidate have been jumping into the race in big numbers. It is unknown exactly how many of the dozen and a half or more people who have filled the initial paperwork to run for governor will ultimately make the ballot, but the race is likely to be spirited.

On Mackinac Island, the three candidates getting the most attention were the front-runner, the grass roots campaigner and the one who hasn’t said he’s running yet.

Attorney General Bill Schuette recently made what he referred to as “the worst kept secret” official, announcing he is running for governor. Polling has consistently showed him ahead of any hypothetical field.

He has made jobs a top priority and said despite the state’s turnaround in unemployment, there are still fewer people employed than before the great recession and that has to change.

“I reject the notion that Michigan’s future that our best days are behind us,” he said. “No, our best days are directly in front of us. But we need to cop an attitude, I want the jobs to be in Michigan not in Nashville and not in Texas. I want to make sure Michigan is the jobs state.”

Patrick Colbeck is a term limited state senator who champions the idea of grass roots involvement and smaller, more efficient government. He says that’s how he runs his campaign too.

He said the involvement of his mostly volunteer campaign is key.

“When you have folks that are passionate about the candidate, and we’ve got very passionate people in support of us,” Colbeck said. “They’re enthusiastic. I don’t think you’ll see that type of enthusiasm for the other candidates. That makes a difference. That was the difference in this last presidential primary.”

Equally active during this weekend’s conference was a man who is widely expected to get into the race, but says there is no rush. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said he wants to listen and try to bridge what he sees as a political divide that has separated many people into opposing groups that aren’t talking to each other.

“The next state election really needs to focus on the people of the state of Michigan,” he said. “In the face of this division and all this passion for and against there needs to be somebody reaching across that divide. Somebody has to be willing to have the courage to do that and I don’t see anybody even attempting to reach across the political divide right now.”

The island meeting of GOP faithful is more or less the unofficial start of the election cycle for Republicans and these three candidates and dozens more hope to use the event as a springboard to propel them their party’s nomination in August.

Democrats, too, have a number of active candidates. Former State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer polls far ahead of announced candidates but both Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayad have raised or contributed large amounts of money to their campaigns, giving them both potential viability.

Between now and August, there will be a lot activity on both sides setting up a big election showdown next November.