Trump co-chair running for Michigan Secretary of State

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – A university professor who co-chaired President Donald Trump’s state campaign in 2016 is running for Michigan Secretary of State.

Joseph Guzman, 57, on Friday filed paperwork to form a secretary of state candidate committee, joining Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot and state Sen. Mike Kowall in the race for the 2018 Republican nomination.

“I think it’s vitally important we ensure the integrity of our voter systems, our election systems, and that we continue the progress (current Secretary of State) Ruth Johnson has made in customer service,” Guzman told The Detroit News, explaining his motivation for a run.

The Okemos resident is an assistant professor in the human resources and labor relations department at Michigan State University. He was a member of the Trump campaign’s National Hispanic Advisory Council and was invited to meet with White House officials in January during the presidential transition.

Guzman previously worked as first deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy in the Office of Financial Management and Comptroller, as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force and as deputy director of the Department of Defense’s Biometric Management Office.

“I’ve had a lifelong interest in policy and public service,” he said when asked about his qualifications for secretary of state, a post that involves oversight of elections, vehicle registration and drivers licensing.

Guzman and his family moved to Michigan seven years ago. His three oldest children have gone to college here, and Guzman said he and his family have “really become Michiganders.”

“I think that people who were born and raised in Michigan are very, very lucky,” he said “It’s a beautiful state with so much to offer.”

Michigan Republicans and Democrats will decide their nominees for high-ranking government positions like secretary of state and attorney general at post-primary party conventions in August of 2018. Both races are beginning to take shape.

Democrat Pat Miles of Grand Rapids this week filed paperwork to run for Michigan attorney general. The former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan under President Barack Obama is expected to formally launch his campaign next month.

“Stay tuned,” said Jen Eyer of Vanguard Public Affairs in Lansing, which his working with Miles.

Democrat Dana Nessel of Plymouth launched two weeks ago her own attorney general campaign. A private-practice attorney, Nessel is best known for representing Michigan plaintiffs in a landmark same-sex marriage case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton and House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt are among Republicans considering a run to replace term-limited Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is likely to run for governor.

Guzman’s campaign adds to the early competition for the Republican nomination to replace Johnson, the GOP secretary of state who will be term-limited out of office but has set up a committee to run for the Michigan Senate. In addition to Grot and Kowall, Johnson chief of staff Mike Senyko is also reportedly considering the race.

Grot and Kowall are “fine gentleman” but “I believe I’ll do the best job,” said Guzman, who is not planning a major campaign launch event but expects to have a significant presence at next month’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.

“I will not be outworked,” he added.

On the Democratic side, former Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson is considering another run for secretary of state after winning her party’s nomination in 2010. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.