Engler backs Schuette for governor in GOP primary

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Former Gov. John Engler is throwing his support behind fellow Republican Bill Schuette in the race to be Michigan’s next governor.

Schuette’s campaign announced the endorsement Monday, adding to a growing list of high-profile Republicans backing the term-limited state attorney general ahead of the 2018 GOP primary.

President Donald Trump endorsed Schuette on Sept. 16, and Macomb County Public Works Commissioner and former Congresswoman Candice Miller backed him Saturday at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.

Engler, in comments first reported by Gongwer News Service and distributed by the campaign, called Schuette “very talented, very experienced.”

“He’s in some ways the most experienced and most varied in background of anybody who’s run in a very long time,” Engler said.

Schuette’s three-decade career in politics includes a stint as Michigan director of Agriculture under Engler. The Midland Republican also served in Congress, the state Senate and on the Michigan Court of Appeals.

It’s the second gubernatorial endorsement of its kind this month. Former Gov. Jim Blanchard announced his support for fellow Democrat Gretchen Whitmer on Sept. 13.

Schuette is considered an early front-runner in the race for the GOP nomination to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder. Other candidates include state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley of Portland also continues to mull a run. He’ll launch a statewide town hall tour next week in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

Whitmer, a former state Senate minority leader, has topped early polls of declared candidates for the Democratic nomination. She is competing against former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed, Ann Arbor entrepreneur Shri Thanedar and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs.

Schuette appeared to be a favorite among GOP attendees at the weekend state party’s Mackinac confab, where he received 56 percent of the vote in a straw poll sponsored by the MIRS subscription news service and Crain’s Detroit Business. Calley finished second with 23 percent, followed by Colbeck at 18 percent.

Engler backed Schuette on the island, according to the campaign. Schuette said he was “thrilled to have the support.

“By slashing taxes, reducing regulations and focusing on job creation, Michigan thrived under (Engler’s) leadership,” Schuette said in a statement.

Engler served three terms as governor. He recently retired as president of the Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C., and previously served as CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.