New Calley ad teases likely run for governor

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is launching a new online advertising campaign Monday and teasing plans to make a major announcement at the end of next month, the clearest signs yet the Portland Republican is preparing to run for governor.

The first ad in the roughly $500,000 online campaign paid for by his political action committee features a soft-spoken Calley discussing his 10-year-old daughter, Reagan, who has autism, and “how far she’s come” since she was diagnosed.

“I’ve sure learned a lot, and used that experience to help everyone in Michigan live a better life,” Calley says. “I didn’t shout it from the rooftop. That’s not my style. It’s not the grandstanding that matters. It’s winning, for you.”

The ad notes a series of reforms enacted under Calley and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who cannot run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, including the state’s new right-to-work law that prohibits making union dues or fees a condition of employment.

He also uses the ad to tout 2011 tax code changes, including replacement of the unpopular Michigan Business Tax, and balanced state budgets.

“I never raised my voice, but we got the right things done,” Calley says.

“And will again,” a narrator adds as “5.30.17” splashes across the screen over footage of the state Capitol, hinting at an announcement that day. It's earlier in the same week that Calley and other top Michigan officials are expected to gather on Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference. Political candidates often mingle with influential attendees on the island.

The Calley ad is the first in a series set to run over the next six weeks, according to Republican strategist John Yob, a longtime Calley ally who is working as a general consultant for his MIPAC committee, which is paying for the ads. Yob declined to specify what Calley will announce on May 30 and what office he could pursue next.

“Stay tuned on May 30 to hear how Michigan can continue its winning streak after losing over and over again in the lost decade,” he said.

The new ad does not promote Calley as a candidate for any particular office. Asked about the motivation for the advertising, Yob said Calley “cares deeply” about the people of Michigan and is proud of accomplishments by the Snyder administration.

“It is important that people can have a window into the heart of Brian Calley and any elected official so that they know they are a good person who cares about the people of the state,” Yob said.

While Calley has been coy about a potential gubernatorial run, he’s taken steps to position himself for a possible campaign. Attorney General Bill Schuette also is considering a run, along with state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, setting up what could be a tough battle for the GOP nomination.

Calley could be weighed down by poor polling numbers for Snyder, whose approval rating plummeted amid criticism over the Flint water crisis. Calley has played a prominent role in the administration’s ongoing recovery efforts in Flint, which marks the third anniversary Tuesday of the lead-leaching crisis.

Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs are running for the Democratic nomination. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township also is contemplating a bid.

Calley’s MIPAC had raised just $23,500 through the end of 2016, but he has been actively raising funds in recent months. He’s already raised more than $692,000 for his lieutenant governor candidate committee this cycle, and that money could be transferred to a new committee if he launches another campaign.

Calley’s candidate committee ended last year with more than $600,000 cash on-hand. Schuette also has continued to raise money since his re-election in 2014, and his attorney general committee had a balance of more than $780,000 as of Dec. 31.

Bringing Yob into the fold is more evidence Calley is serious about seeking higher office. Yob worked on Snyder’s successful 2010 campaign and helped Calley dominate a state party convention challenge in 2014. Yob has also worked on several national campaigns, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s recent presidential campaign.

Calley, who turned 40 last month, was the nation’s youngest lieutenant governor when he assumed the office in 2011. He served in the state Legislature for four years and had won a Republican primary for the state Senate when Snyder tapped him as his running mate.