Saginaw doc sets record straight on run for governor

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Republican Jim Hines, a Saginaw-area obstetrician, wants to set the record straight: He has been running for governor for almost a year, but he’s not offended if most Michiganians hadn’t noticed.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer announced her own campaign earlier this month, garnering robust media attention and some descriptions identifying her as the first major-party candidate to enter the race.

But Hines filed paperwork with the state in February 2016, “and we announced a month later,” he said Thursday during a meet-and-greet in Lansing. “There may be others that I don’t know of who have done it even sooner. I just know she was after me, not before me.”

A political novice who has never held elected office, Hines said he is aware his campaign remains well below the radar of most Michigan residents.

He has promoted his candidacy to small crowds during a series of five-kilometer runs – he plans to run a race in every county – and this past week launched an “introductory tour” that will include stops in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette.

“I’m an outsider. Nobody knows me,” Hines acknowledged at the press event, where he was joined by roughly a dozen supporters wearing hats with his name and logo. “I will tell you, a lot of people know me on the east side of the state, just because I’ve delivered so many babies.”

Hines describes himself as a conservative who is “pro-life” and supports Second Amendment gun rights. He told reporters that he wants to cut taxes and regulations where possible, provide parents with more choices in education and make Michigan a “destination” state for talent.

Like Gov. Rick Snyder before him, Hines is hoping to rise from relative obscurity to win the Republican nomination. While his pockets are not as deep as Snyder’s, the medical doctor has already sunk some of his own money into the race.

Snyder can’t run for a third term, but even if he could, Hines said he still would still be running too.

“I am sick and tired of the finger pointing (in Lansing) and not taking responsibility for decision making,” Hines said.

He credited Snyder for owning up to the Flint water crisis but said that, as a medical professional, he would have stopped delivery of “brown water, stinky water” to Flint residents before lead contamination was confirmed.

While Whitmer is the highest-profile candidate in the race, the former Michigan Senate minority leader from East Lansing already has company and faces a potential primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township.

State records show that at least four other major-party but low-profile candidates have filed for the race since 2015, when Snyder began his second term. The list includes Hines, fellow Republican Mark McFarlin of Pinconning, Democrat William Cobbs of Farmington Hills and Democrat Kentiel White of Southgate.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette are considered likely front-runners for the Republican gubernatorial nomination should they enter the 2018 race, but both remain coy about their future plans and when they might announce them.

“There will be plenty of time for that in the future, but in the meantime our state is on a real upward set of trends, whether it’s income or job growth, and my job primarily is to make sure that our state continues to grow on the path it’s been on,” Calley said recently in Grand Rapids. “I’m going to stay focused on that for now.”

Schuette, whose office is investigating the Flint water crisis while also defending state officials in various legal matters, was similarly non-committal recently when asked whether he will run for governor, which most political observers expect him to do.

“My most important responsibility, my job, is my job, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

State Sen. Pat Colbeck, a Canton Township Republican and tea party favorite, said this past week he is actively considering a run but still mulling it over with his wife. He has no timeline for making a final decisions.

The process involves “a lot of prayer,” he told The Detroit News.

Colbeck said he and his wife also spent a lot of time praying before he decided to run for the Senate in 2010. Back then, he set himself a decision deadline and said his devotional scripture reading that very same day was a Bible verse that inspired his run.

“When we ran the first time, we liquidated all of our retirement savings and we shut down my business for nine months,” said Colbeck, who has an aerospace engineering degree and started a web-services company called Tek Made Easy.

“It’s a big commitment. This is even bigger. I don’t have $6 million like Rick Snyder had to go off and invest in his campaign, so I like to think we’re faith-based and also pragmatic. We’ll see how it goes.”