Michigan businessman launching exploratory committee for governor

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Republican Kevin Rinke, a Metro Detroit businessman who has said he would spend at least $10 million in a potential campaign for governor, is taking a step closer to formally joining the race by launching an exploratory committee.

Rinke of Bloomfield Township, whose family has owned and operated auto dealerships in the state, revealed his plan to form the exploratory committee this week during a Wednesday interview. He said while he respects the courage of the other GOP candidates running for governor in 2022, including ex-Detroit Police Chief James Craig, conservative commentator Tudor Dixon and chiropractor Garrett Soldano, he said his business experience sets him apart.

Kevin Rinke

"It appears to me that people in Michigan are tired of the political establishment on both sides of the aisle," Rinke said. "I am going to be an outsider. I am not a political insider. I only want to do what's right for the people of Michigan if I move forward."

As of Wednesday, nine Republicans had formed candidate committees aimed at running for governor in 2022. The incumbent, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, is expected to seek reelection.

Republican primary voters will choose their nominee in August 2022.

Craig, who started an exploratory committee in July,  Dixon and Soldano have gotten the most attention in the primary race so far. However, GOP insiders are watching Rinke closely because of his ability to self-fund his campaign. Michigan's last Republican governor, Rick Snyder, was also a businessman and political newcomer who used his personal wealth to finance his campaign.

The former Detroit police chief, Craig, will hold a series of campaign kickoff events on Tuesday, including a stop in Detroit at 10 a.m., according to posts on Facebook.

Rinke is planning an initial investment of $10 million in his potential campaign for governor, one of his advisers told The Detroit News in July. The money could help him share his story with voters and attempt to define his primary opponents.

The businessman said he's been traveling around the state and participating in meetings about his potential campaign. Forming the exploratory committee is the appropriate next step, he said. The committee will allow him to begin raising and spending money on his campaign.

"It is my opinion that my vast experience in politics as well as business experience make me more qualified than those outstanding citizens of Michigan who want to throw their hat in the ring," Rinke said.

He will further discuss his decision during an event in Oakland County on Thursday night, he said.

The state GOP "must be approaching some sort of record for featuring this many candidates while also exhibiting this little substance in a gubernatorial primary," said Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party. 

"With less than a year to go until folks head to the polls, neither Kevin Rinke nor the other 10 Republicans in the mix have even attempted to explain to Michiganders how they plan to maintain the rapid revitalization of our economy, safely keep our kids in school or improve any other conceivable aspect of their lives," Barnes said. "No amount of money Rinke throws after this vanity project will serve as a stand-in to actually addressing any of these issues."