Bob Lutz joins Colbeck campaign as finance chair

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Former auto executive Bob Lutz will serve as the new finance chairman for Republican state Sen. Patrick Colbeck’s run for Michigan governor, the campaign announced Thursday.

The outspoken former General Motors vice chairman and ex-Chrysler president will work to help Colbeck turn around sluggish fundraising numbers as he seeks to compete for the GOP nomination with higher-profile candidates like Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

Lutz last month endorsed Colbeck, saying the trained aerospace engineer and conservative tea party favorite from Canton Township is a “problem-solver” rather than just “another politician.”

“Michigan needs genuine leadership,” Lutz said in a statement. “Leaders solve problems. That’s what Patrick Colbeck does.”

Lutz retired from GM in May 2010. Company officials credited him with spearheading a series of successful new product launches that still were unable to help the automaker avoid bankruptcy in 2009. He is well-known in Michigan but has not been overly active in state politics.

Campaign finance records show Lutz has made a handful of contributions to state-level candidates in the past two decades. He backed Republican George Scott Romney’s losing bid for attorney general in 1998 and then-Secretary of State Candice Miller’s successful re-election bid the same year.

Lutz has been more active in federal races, contributing to both Republicans and Democrats during his tenure at GM. Federal records show he contributed to the likes of former Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Colbeck’s fundraising totals have lagged behind those of his GOP rivals. As of Oct. 20, he had raised $157,195 for his campaign and spent $143,963, leaving him with $13,232 in the bank.

Schuette had built a $2.3 million war chest through late October. Calley, who officially announced his campaign Nov. 28, had more than $1.17 million in cash on hand.

Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines has pumped more than $500,000 of his own money into his long-shot gubernatorial campaign and reported a cash balance of $100,156 on Oct. 20.

Colbeck said in a statement he is “thrilled” Lutz will be his new finance chair and could take “our campaign to the next level.”