GOP Michigan gov hopeful James Craig: 'I stand with the truckers'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Republican gubernatorial hopeful James Craig said Friday he stands with the truckers who are protesting Canada's COVID-19 restrictions and blocking the Ambassador Bridge.

Craig, Detroit's former police chief, issued a statement that criticized Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Joe Biden for what he described as "demonizing the truckers."

"I stand with the truckers," Craig said. "I support all working people who are standing up for personal freedom.

"What we are seeing is a tremendous lack of leadership from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Joe Biden and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer."

Republican James Craig, who's running to be Michigan's next governor, says he stands with the truckers who are protesting Canada's COVID-19 restrictions and blocking the Ambassador Bridge.

Whitmer has called on Canadian authorities to resolve the dispute at the border crossing and offered heavy equipment, security and other resources to assist in ending the blockade. The Biden administration has urged Trudeau’s government to use its federal powers to end the blockade.

The blockade, now in its fifth day, is having a "significant impact on Michigan's working families who are just trying to do their jobs," Whitmer said Thursday. It's spurred auto manufacturers in multiple states to reduce production, including Toyota Motor North America, which said Friday that it's now having periodic downtime at its engine plants in West Virginia and Alabama.

With his statement, Craig became the latest high-profile Michigan Republican to signal support for the truckers' protest.

"I reject big government socialism, and I reject the notion that working people standing up for freedom are somehow the problem," Craig said. "We need real leadership. President Biden, who often touts his blue-collar bonafides, should stand up for working people and call out Prime Minister Trudeau for his arrogance and failure to lead."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, slammed Craig's position, saying it was "abhorrent" coming from someone who used to work in law enforcement.

"Laws should be applied and enforced equally to everyone, irrespective of the motivation of those in violation of the law," Nessel tweeted. "This is why so many now feel free to disregard statutes which keep our society safe."

Like Craig, other Republican candidates for governor, Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores, Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township and Garrett Soldano of Mattawan, have also criticized Whitmer's handling of the blockade.

In response, Rodericka Applewhaite, spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party, said the GOP candidates were putting their "ideological agenda" ahead of working families in Michigan.

"In the case of the blockade at (the) Ambassador Bridge, the choice is clear: You either side with Michigan's economy and the auto industry, or you don't," Applewhaite contended.

The protesters in Canada have said they will not leave until all vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

"This isn't about picking sides," Rinke tweeted Friday. "It's about standing up for what is right. I will never apologize for standing for freedom."

Soldano's campaign posted on Facebook that he stands with "Canadian & American Truckers."

Likewise, John James, a Republican candidate for the U.S. House in Michigan, said Thursday that the "only acceptable resolution is ending all COVID mandates on both sides of the bridge."

Republican U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain of Bruce Township, whose district includes the Blue Water Bridge, sent a letter to Biden on Friday labeling the blockade a "crisis of your own making" and demanding that he drop his administration's "overreaching" vaccine mandates to restore the flow of commerce between the two nations.

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, called on the Canadian government Friday to "end the blockade."

"Then, we need to continue the work that Michiganders have been pushing for over the last 30 years: bringing manufacturing of critical items back to the U.S. so we’re not dependent on others for our economic security," Slotkin wrote.

Staff Writers Melissa Nann Burke, Jordyn Grzelewski and Riley Beggin contributed.