Calley: Don’t count me out for 2018

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News

Mackinac Island — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is not among the declared gubernatorial candidates wooing activists at this weekend’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, but he says it would be a mistake to count him out for 2018.

Calley is using the biennial confab to promote his upcoming statewide town hall tour, which will begin next month with stops in Grand Rapids and Detroit, but his presence is muted compared with official candidates for the job he may seek.

The Portland Republican’s seemingly slow timeline for deciding on a run for governor has fueled speculation he may sit out the race, but Calley insists he’s still considering it.

“Most of the people of Michigan are not tuned into the process yet,” he said in the lobby of the historic Grand Hotel. “They’re not ready for the 2018 election to happen. I’m not concerned that September 2017 is some kind of magical deadline for being in or out.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who announced his run for governor last week, is definitely in. Schuette campaign volunteers were swarming conference attendees as they stepped from their ferries onto the carless island. The Midland Republican is hosting an opening day “Shish-ka-Bash” and a Saturday ice cream social.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Canton Township Republican also running for governor, has a large campaign presence on the island as well and will host a “launch party” Saturday afternoon. Jim Hines, a Saginaw obstetrician seeking the GOP nomination, was personally greeting conference guests at the ferry docks.

Calley, meanwhile, planned to host a Friday night party at Horn’s Bar and said he’s in regular contact with grassroots supporters beyond the island confab.

The lieutenant governor said his message for Republican activists this weekend is focused on “reaching further” to build on the past seven years under GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.

“We’ve got a really strong coalition that has enjoyed some great success in Michigan, and so the question is, where do we go from here,” he said.

The lieutenant governor downplayed Scheutte’s high-profile entrance into the gubernatorial race, which included a statewide jobs tour and Twitter endorsement from President Donald Trump.

“It wasn’t particularly surprising,” Calley said of Trump’s endorsement, “but my focus and attention is on the people of Michigan, not the people of New York or Washington, D.C.”

Calley withdrew his general election endorsement of Trump over lewd comments by the candidate but ended up voting for him in November. Schuette stuck by Trump at the time.

“I’ve always been a Republican, but I don’t ride for the brand,” Calley said, referencing comments Schuette made during the presidential election. “I ride for the people of the state of Michigan.”

Asked if Schuette would make a good governor, Calley demurred but he said he’s looking for a candidate who is willing to engage across the political spectrum, who will go out of their way to understand different viewpoints, and who will not politicize the office.

“When it comes to the responsibility of the job of being governor, one must put the interest of the people of the state of Michigan ahead of everything, including the political interests of the person who’s been entrusted with that responsibility.”

So has Schuette politicized the attorney general’s office?

“I’ve certainly heard people say that,” Calley said, declining to share his personal opinion until he decides whether or not he’ll run against Schuette in the Republican primary.