Candice Miller says she won't run for Michigan governor in 2022

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Republican Candice Miller, a former congresswoman and longtime elected official in Michigan, announced Monday that she will not run for governor in 2022.

Miller, who is currently the public works commissioner in Macomb County, revealed her decision in a Facebook post. She noted that there had been "some recent media reports" about her potentially being a candidate but she said it won't happen next year.

"I appreciate the support of the people of Macomb County in my recent reelection and I am committed to fulfilling my duties here," Miller said. "Improving water quality in our magnificent Great Lakes, upgrading and maintaining our infrastructure and being a positive component of economic prosperity for Macomb County – these remain my focus."

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller

Miller, 66, had been described by some Republicans as the "dream candidate" to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her expected reelection campaign in 2022.

Some GOP leaders contended that Miler, a woman from Southeast Michigan with a record of working on infrastructure and Great Lakes issues, would be able to raise the necessary money and unite Republicans to prevent a contested and expensive primary race.

By deciding against running early in 2021, Miller had done the party a favor, said John Sellek, founder and CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs who's previously worked with Republicans.

"Candice Miller is one of the best public servants in Michigan history and would have been a strong candidate, perhaps one Gov. Whitmer's team really did not want to face," Sellek said.

He added, "She, like others, may have grown tired of the infighting in Washington and remembered that lesson when considering going to Lansing as opposed to being able to accomplish tangible things in her current job closer to home."

The November 2022 election is 22 months away. But candidates for governor in Michigan usually launch their campaigns in the first six months of the year before an election year. Whitmer formed her campaign committee for governor in 2018 on Jan. 3, 2017.

In an interview last week with Detroit News Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley, Miller said she loves her current position, which, she said, combines her interests in infrastructure and the Great Lakes.

When pressed on whether she would rule out a run for governor last week, Miller responded: "I don’t know what to say. Two years is a long time away.”

Another potential GOP candidate, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, said on Thursday that he has "no interest and no plans" to run for governor in 2022

Other Michigan Republicans have floated former U.S. Senate candidate John James; former state House Speaker Lee Chatfied, R-Levering; Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel; U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet; and state Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, as potential gubernatorial candidates.

Without Miller, the race will be "wide open" if James ultimately decides against running, said Tom Shields, a longtime GOP consultant in Michigan.

"It’s a big disappointment for party leadership who would like to have that candidate who clears the field that everybody can get behind," Shields said. "At the same time, it allows then the party to go through the process to find that person."

James, a Farmington Hills businessman, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and 2020. But he's been skilled at fundraising and drawing national attention to his campaign. He's also received heavy support from President Donald Trump and the president's backers in the state.

James lost to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, by 2 percentage points on Nov. 3.

Miller's decision allows other potential GOP candidates to consider campaigning for governor, Shields said. Other than James, who established a name statewide, less-known candidates will have to begin showing some "real interest" in running in the next three to four months, Shields said.

The last successful, non-incumbent GOP candidate for governor, Rick Snyder, launched his campaign committee on March 18, 2009, before the 2010 election.

The last time an incumbent governor in Michigan lost was 1990 when Republican then-state Sen. John Engler narrowly defeated Democratic Gov. Jim Blanchard, who was seeking a third term.