Here’s who’s running to be Michigan’s next governor
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Republican candidate Dr. Jim Hines and to correct John Tatar's position on utility smart meters.
Lansing — A field of nine candidates — four are political newcomers like President Donald Trump — will battle through the summer for top spots on the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties’ gubernatorial tickets.
The candidate pool is diverse and lively. While the GOP candidates are all white men, the Democratic contest features a woman, a naturalized citizen and a son of Egyptian immigrants.
Competing for the Republican nomination are an attorney general, lieutenant governor, state senator and obstetrician. On the Democratic side, the candidates are a former Senate minority leader, a former Detroit health director and an Indian-American businessman from Ann Arbor.
With less than three months remaining until the Aug. 7 primaries, Democrats are fighting for the title of most progressive while each Republican is claiming loyalty to President Donald Trump and being the most conservative. The battle for the Libertarian nomination is among two longtime party activists with no experience in government.
“The Republicans have two better known candidates than the Democrats,” said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.
The primary race is nothing like the one that led to the election of Ann Arbor computer executive Rick Snyder, Grossmann said, when the governor “came out of nowhere.”
“2010 was a much more unique race than this year,” he said since Michigan was still in the midst of a recession.
Detroit political analyst Mario Morrow agreed.
“People aren’t excited, and that’s a problem for the candidates,” Morrow said. “They’re going to have to work harder and get their message out.”
For the candidates of all parties, that means distinguishing themselves through clearly defined issues and solutions.
“There’s some minor differences between all the candidates, both Republican and Democrat, but there’s not earth-shattering differences,” Morrow said. “Not enough to shake up anyone’s polling numbers to make them the chosen one.”
The field already has been littered with allegations: Candidates have criticized the handling of the Flint water crisis, accused each other of a lack of financial transparency, questioned each other’s eligibility and even alleged without substantiation that one candidate had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — a claim that’s been vehemently rejected, including by members of the candidate’s party.
Many of the gubernatorial hopefuls declared their candidacies months ago and have been campaigning before the official filing deadline in late April. As the politicking intensifies, here are the candidates:
BRIAN CALLEY, 40, R-PORTLAND
History: Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was a community banker for more than 10 years and served two terms on the Ionia County Board of Commissioners, then two terms in the House of Representatives. He was elected lieutenant governor with Gov. Rick Snyder in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
Issues: Calley intends to “continue the comeback” in Michigan, boasting the state’s debt reduction, growing fund balance and 500,000 new jobs that have been created since he became lieutenant governor. Calley’s worked on several health-related issues, including those related to mental health, the opioid epidemic and the Flint water crisis.
Family: Calley and his wife, state Rep. Julie Calley, have three children.
PATRICK COLBECK, 52, CANTON TOWNSHIP
History: Sen. Patrick Colbeck is an aerospace engineer who worked on systems used for the International Space Station and later started a web services company called Tek Made Easy. He was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
Issues: Colbeck has focused his message on job growth, free-market health care reform, higher-quality roads, affordable car insurance and the elimination of the state income tax and senior pension tax.
Family: Colbeck and his wife, Angie, live in Canton.
JIM HINES, 62, SAGINAW TOWNSHIP
History: Dr. Jim Hines is a Saginaw-area obstetrician who has been in the business for 30 years. He’s the former chief of medical staff at Convenant HealthCare and the former national president of the Christian Medical & Dental Association. He has never held an elected office.
Issues: Hines said his priorities as governor would be the state’s job climate, education and health care reform, the environment and infrastructure fixes.
Family: Hines and his wife, Martha, have seven sons and 15 grandchildren.
BILL SCHUETTE, 63, MIDLAND
History: Attorney General Bill Schuette has been in politics for three decades, including stints as a congressman, state senator, Michigan Court of Appeals judge and director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture under former Gov. John Engle
Issues: Schuette has dubbed himself the “jobs governor” and emphasized his intention to decrease regulations, cut taxes, grow jobs, reform auto insurance laws and improve education scores. Schuette has touted his endorsements from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Family: Schuette and his wife, Cynthia, have two children.
ABDUL EL-SAYED, 33, SHELBY TOWNSHIP
History: Dr. Abdul El-Sayed was appointed executive director for the Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion in 2015. He’s credited with reorganizing the office and reforming Detroit’s troubled animal control office. He resigned in February 2017 to run for governor. A Muslim whose parents were Egyptian immigrants, El-Sayed is a Rhodes scholar and medical doctor who taught at Columbia University before returning to Detroit.
Issues: El-Sayed has said he would focus his efforts as governor on fighting inequality, ensuring environmental protections, raising the minimum wage, amending civil rights legislation to ensure protection for the LGBT community and government transparency.
Family: El-Sayed and his wife, Sarah, live in Shelby Township.
SHRI THANEDAR, 63, ANN ARBOR
History: An Indian immigrant and businessman, Shri Thanedar came to the U.S. in 1979 to pursue his education and went to the University of Michigan as a post-doctorate scholar in 1982. He owned a chemical analysis firm in Missouri before moving back to Ann Arbor in 2010 and founding Avomeen Analytical Services. He sold a majority share in Avomeen in 2016. Thanedar has never held an elected position.
Issues: Thanedar’s focus has been on improved education, infrastructure repairs, government transparency and environmental protections.
Family: Thanedar is married to Shashi and has two sons. His first wife died.
GRETCHEN WHITMER, 46, EAST LANSING
History:Gretchen Whitmer is a lawyer who served in the state House and Senate, where she was Senate minority leader. In 2016, she worked for several months as interim Ingham County prosecutor, replacing Stuard Dunnings III, who resigned and was later convicted of prostitution-related crimes.
Issues: Whitmer has emphasized her commitment to women’s rights, expanded transparency, the environment, education reform, infrastructure repairs and economic growth.
Family: Whitmer is married to Marc Mallory and has two daughters and three stepsons. This is her second marriage.
BILL GELINEAU, 58, LOWELL
History:Bill Gelineau is a title insurance agent, and former restaurant owner and ex-chairman of the Libertarian Party of Michigan. He is the first candidate to qualify for a Libertarian Party primary election in Michigan.
Issues: Gelineau wants to end tax subsidies for businesses, drop the state’s tax limit, legalize recreational marijuana and modify business taxes to insure against environmental incidents.
Family: Gelineau is married to Donna and has six children. This is his second marriage.
JOHN TATAR, 69, REDFORD TOWNSHIP
History: A retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, John Tatar is a former home builder and school teacher. He has run for state representative and Congress in the past.
Issues: Tatar has voiced opposition to utility smart meters, but supported the end to gerrymandering and the Common Core curriculum. He’s also supported the elimination of the Michigan Senate and reforms for auto insurance.
Family: Tatar is divorced and has a grown son and grown daughter.