Michigan gov hopeful Jim Hines embraces 'outsider' status
Dr. Jim Hines, a Republican candidate for governor, would get rid of Common Core standards and go "back to basics" on education. Dale G. Young, The Detroit News
A quote from the Founding Fathers. Family moving out of Michigan. Four flat tires in nine months.
Dr. Jim Hines uses his fingers to tick off the reasons he is running for the Republican nomination for governor.
The robotics and laser surgeon has delivered thousands of babies, led the medical staff for a Michigan health care network, co-owns a Saginaw medical practice, and has led dozens of medical teams in impoverished and war-torn countries.
But traveling the state in a 32-foot RV with his name on the side is something new for the politically unknown Saginaw obstetrician.
The 62-year-old doctor has spent the past several months in the “Hinesmobile” to spread his message of “People over Politics.” But he acknowledges he has an uphill battle against well-known competitors Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township.
“The challenge is getting my name out there,” Hines said. “That’s one of the reasons we started so early.”
Name recognition is essential if Hines wants a chance to win in August, said David Dulio, political science professor at Oakland University. A recent EPIC-MRA poll found that more than 70 percent of 600 likely Michigan voters didn't recognize Hines' name.
The polling paints a grim picture for Hines, Dulio said, but the doctor’s “outsider” status could also work in his favor.
“He would very likely approach problems from a different angle than other politicians or lawmakers who have been in the system for a long time," Dulio said. "I think that’s the attraction that a lot of folks have to outsider candidates.”
Hines had raised a little over $729,000 through December 2017, although he has loaned more than 90 percent of the money, or $673,632, to the campaign. The remaining donations have come from grassroots supporters, said Hines, who professed his commitment to refuse donations from interest groups.
Television advertisements have featured Hines at his physician's office, riding a motorcycle, flying a plane, running a race, teaching karate, exploring a dairy farm and toting a rifle in a hunter's orange vest.
"It's time to put career politicians out to pasture," a deep-toned narrator says at the conclusion of the ad. "Because the doctor is in."
Indiana childhood, career
A Hoosier by birth, Hines spent his weekends and summers growing up on his grandparents’ Indiana pig farm.
His father, a union member who worked in the foundries, didn’t attend school past the third grade and didn’t learn to read until Hines taught him. Donald Hines always encouraged his son to get an education, advice that helped set the trajectory for Hines’ later career.
At 19, Hines married Martha Male Hines after giving his father his word that he’d finish college. He attended Indiana University School of Medicine, where he remembers giving a tour to former Indiana Gov. Otis R. Bowen, a former physician, during a visit.
“That was instrumental to me for service because he was someone who loved people and switched from a life of medicine to a life of politics,” Hines said.
Instead of pursuing politics right away, Hines and his wife left for the Central African Republic after he completed his schooling. Hines ran two hospitals and 20 urgent care facilities during the couple’s four-year stint there.
After his return to the United States, Hines became involved in regular medical practice and hospital administration. But he continued to participate in occasional medical missions, leading dozens of medical teams across the globe.
Hines is the former chief of medical staff for Covenant HealthCare and former national president for the Christian Medical & Dental Association. In January, he took a leave of absence from Valley OB-Gyn Clinic, a medical practice he co-owns in Saginaw, to run for governor.
Saginaw County court records indicate Hines has faced four malpractice lawsuits in the last decade. The first, in 2008, ended with an undisclosed settlement, while suits filed in 2010 and 2012 ended when jurors determined there was no cause for action against the Saginaw doctor. Hines was dismissed from a 2016 lawsuit.
Hines was counseled by attorneys early on to settle no matter the circumstances of the lawsuit, and the 2008 case reflects as much, he said. But he changed the way he handled malpractice suits after that.
“I just decided that wasn’t right, so no matter how long it took, we would fight any lawsuits," Hines said.
From doc to gov hopeful
A series of events sparked Hines' decision to run for political office.
Five of his seven sons moved out of the state for work, he said. Bad roads caused four flat tires in less than a year.
And in March 2015, he read W. Cleon Skousen's book "The 5,000 Year Leap." Skousen wrote that Thomas Jefferson argued the greatest threat to the United States would be “when the best qualified person refused to run for office because it was too hard or too arduous.”
“That was me,” Hines said. “…I took a year from that moment to meet with senators and CEOs, and talked to my wife and my partners, to decide what would be the best and biggest way to have an impact on the state of Michigan.”
He settled on a run for governor.
The battle for name recognition has been fought in 5-kilometer runs, meet-and-greets, community coffee hours and hundreds of highway miles in the less-than-subtle Hinesmobile.
The doctor keeps tools on hand inside the RV to tighten screws on windows and appliances that shake loose over the rough roads.
“They’re a disaster now,” Hines said.
But Hines’ primary issue is education, with a focus on school choice, local control, better reading skills and a back-to-the-basics curriculum that scraps common core. He also wants to see better training for skilled trades, such as the training offered to inmates through the Michigan Department of Correction’s Vocational Village program.
“I believe that the foundational issue is probably education,” Hines said. “Once that’s where it should be, then we’ll see jobs improving, wages going up and a lot of other changes.”
The state can use current and lapsed funds, without raising taxes, to invest in high-quality repairs to roadways, he said. The candidate also is focused on other areas of infrastructure, including the replacement of all lead water lines throughout the state.
“Any politician that was in office during the Flint water crisis is not going to be our next governor, it won’t happen,” Hines said, a reference to his GOP competitors. “…I think that our next governor is either going to be a Republican outsider or it's going to be a Democrat. “
Hines was uncertain what a statewide lead service line replacement would cost but said Lansing could serve as a model. The city spent roughly $44.5 million over 12 years to replace its lead service lines. A potential increase in water fees statewide could ease the cost of replacement, he said.
Stumping with 'ordinary people'
The Saginaw doctor’s “God-fearing” character and his belief in putting people above politics are more than just talk, said Angela Delaney. The 52-year-old Saginaw woman met Hines when he performed an emergency C-section 23 years ago to deliver Delaney’s 1-pound, 7-ounce daughter, Desiree.
Delaney said she has since come to know that Hines and his family put people’s needs before his own personal interests.
“They’re ordinary people just like me,” she said.
Diane Loew’s first knowledge of Hines came when his campaign asked to use Loew’s Byron Center dairy farm to film a commercial.
Loew agreed to the arrangement and now calls the Hineses friends. She has hosted meet-and-greets for him and featured the political newcomer on her blog “A Farm Wife” and podcast, “A farm life with a farm wife.”
“He is not a politician,” Loew said. “He is coming with a heart for people. He proved that even before he decided to run for governor.”
Dr. Tim Mills met Hines at the Loews’ farm and immediately took note that Hines was campaigning among “ordinary people like me.”
Though Hines doesn’t always have ready answers, Mills, a Holland psychologist, had full confidence in Hines' ability to arrive at sound solutions.
“His responses were not polished and political,” Mills said. “He was talking from his heart, and I guess that resonates for me.”
Loew said the ideas and goals Hines outlined lined up with her own. And his lack of political experience was refreshingly reminiscent of President Donald Trump, she said.
“I like the idea of someone coming in who isn’t the status quo and hasn’t bought into the whole system,” Loew said. “I think it’s just good to look at things through different eyes.”
About Jim Hines
Family: Wife Martha and seven sons
Professional experience: Longtime physician who led teams on medical missions, former chief of medical staff for Covenant HealthCare, former director of Christian Medical & Dental Association.
Political experience: None