Andy Levin considers run for Michigan governor

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Democrat Andy Levin, a former state official and son of Congressman Sandy Levin, confirmed Tuesday he is seriously considering a run for Michigan governor and is nearing a decision on a possible campaign.

If he jumps into the 2018 race, Levin would join a Democratic field headlined by former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, the early frontrunner for the party nomination.

“I think we have a number of great people in the race,” Levin said of Whitmer and other Democrats vying to reclaim a post that term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has held since 2011. “Politics is about who the right candidate is at the right time, so I’m just trying to figure out what our best shot is.”

Levin’s continued interest in the governor’s race comes as speculation swirls that Sander Levin, 86, could consider retiring from the U.S. House rather than seek re-election next year, rumors his congressional office has downplayed.

Floated as a potential successor, Andy Levin told The Detroit News that he may run for congress someday but will support his dad’s political career as long as he wants to continue it, “because every day he works for the American people is a great day.”

Levin said his own combination of experience in the national labor movement, government and the private sector could make him a unique candidate for the governor’s race in Michigan, where President Donald Trump last year became the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since 1988.

“The real message of 2016 I think is not about this or that detail of that campaign, or the particular candidates, it’s about a long trajectory of American politics that has led to this moment when working people do not feel they have a champion in Lansing and Washington,” he said. “And whatever I do, I’m going to change that. I have to work to change that.”

A Harvard-trained attorney who lives in Bloomfield Township, Levin is president and founder of Levin Energy Partners, which develops private-public partnerships for clean energy initiatives.

He previously worked as a deputy in the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth and was elevated to acting director in 2010 during the final months of the tenure of former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Levin also served as the state’s chief workforce officer and created the “No Worker Left Behind” initiative to train unemployed residents for new jobs in the Great Recession.

“We really need to have a big focus on creating good jobs and making sure people are training for those jobs,” he said Tuesday.

Levin ran for the state Senate in 2006 but lost to Republican John Pappageorge by 702 votes.

Snyder cannot run for re-election due to the state’s term-limits law. Republican candidates vying to replace him include Attorney General Bill Schuette of Midland, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is also likely to run.

Levin is the latest notable Democrat to consider joining the governor’s race. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township and University of Michigan regent Mark Bernstein had prepared possible runs but opted out.

“He’s definitely testing the waters and reaching out to Democratic leaders to assess whether or not he should run,” said political consultant Howard Edelson, who knows Levin but is not working with him on a potential campaign.

Other Democrats seeking the 2018 nomination include former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed, Ann Arbor entrepreneur Shri Thanedar and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs.

Whitmer has already locked up several union endorsements, along with support from Wayne County leaders like Executive Warren Evans, but some of the state’s largest labor groups have yet to back a candidate.

Levin recently joined Whitmer, El-Sayed, Thanedar and other declared candidates in a telephone town hall the Michigan Education Association hosted for its members.

The primary election is Aug. 7, 2018. The general election is Nov. 6.