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Mackinac Island — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck filed paperwork Wednesday to run for Michigan governor, joining a 2018 Republican primary field that is expected to grow more crowded in coming months.

The Canton conservative’s filing with the Bureau of Elections comes as several likely and declared candidates for governor woo business and political leaders on Mackinac Island. Colbeck intentionally avoided the conference but confirmed he has taken “the first formal steps” towards a run in a Thursday morning email to supporters.

“Michigan deserves principled solutions that prioritize the best interests of ALL of our citizens, not an influential few,” he wrote.

“I have spent my career engineering innovative solutions that satisfy the best interests of my customers. It is about time that elected officials remember that our customers are ALL of our citizens not simply the ones who contributed the most to our campaigns. The government works for the people not the other way around.”

Colbeck did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. A trained aerospace engineer, his campaign voicemail thanks callers for dialing “the launch pad” for his gubernatorial race, and a campaign logo posted online features a NASA-like logo with a rocket ship flying the starry skies over Michigan.

The second-term state senator is a tea party favorite known as one of the most conservative legislators in Lansing. His most recent bill to reach the governor’s desk, which is awaiting possible signature, would create a “Choose Life” fundraising license plate to support abortion alternatives backed by Right to Life of Michigan.

Colbeck is the highest-profile candidate yet to enter a Republican primary race that also includes Saginaw-area obstetrician Jim Hines. Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley remain likely candidates and would enter the race as likely front runners should they declare.

Gov. Rick Snyder cannot seek re-election in 2018 due to the state’s term limits law.

Calley appears increasingly unlikely to announce his own gubernatorial bid on the island this week. Many observers had expected a candidacy declaration after the Portland Republican ran a series of online ads teasing a major May 30 announcement.

Instead of announcing an individual campaign, Calley revealed plans for a petition drive and potential 2018 ballot proposal to make the Michigan Legislature part-time.

Calley is scheduled to make a second announcement Thursday that he said will build on his part-time legislature proposal with a plan for new conflict-of-interest rules for elected officials and restrictions on lobbyists.

“There will be plenty of time to get to the 2018 elections,” Calley told The Detroit News. “I’m really focused on the continued climb of Michigan, from where we started to where we need to be, and I’m laying out some work to do yet in this term. I think it’s just too early to start shifting focus and attention to the next term.”

Schuette, who on Wednesday announced a new unit in the attorney general’s office targeting the state’s ongoing opioid crisis, also said he is not yet ready to announce a campaign.

“I’ve got my own timetable,” Schuette said. “I’m encouraged by the number of people who are encouraging me to run for governor. My wife and I think about this, talk about this, a fair amount. Time will tell. Stay tuned. Be patient.”

Declared Democratic candidates Gretchen Whitmer, Abdul El-Sayed and Bill Cobbs are each attending the Mackinac Policy Conference, as is prospective candidate Mark Bernstein. As first reported by The Detroit News, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel is also considering a run as he works the crowds on Mackinac.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who has said he is not interested in campaigning for governor next year, told reporters Wednesday he has met with several candidates.

“Everybody who wants to run comes and sits and talks to me,” Duggan said. “…I try to have relationships with everybody, but I will be supporting one of the Democratic candidates in 2018.”

joosting@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3662

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