GOP governors group launches early TV ad effort against Whitmer

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Republican Governors Association plans to air more than $500,000 in television ads across Michigan in the coming days criticizing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her trip to visit her father in Florida.

The ad buy is among the first significant spending for Michigan's 2022 gubernatorial campaign, in which Whitmer is expected to seek a second four-year term. The general election is 17 months away.

"Michiganders are fed up with Gretchen Whitmer’s constant hypocrisy, and this investment is just the latest in what will be an unequaled effort to fire Gretchen Whitmer and elect a strong Republican leader," said Chris Gustafson, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association.

Get Michigan Working Again, an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association, launched TV ads against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday, May 25, 2021.

The ad is sponsored by the political action committee Get Michigan Working Again, which is an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association. The spot features a woman named Suzette from Northville, who says she lost her father during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suzette says she couldn't visit her dad, who was in a nursing home, yet Whitmer flew to Florida to visit hers.

"Whitmer ignored her own rules while the rest of us were forced to comply," Suzette says.

The governor traveled on a private plane to visit her father, Richard, on March 12 and returned to Michigan on March 15. Whitmer's administration didn't acknowledge the trip until April 19. The governor said her dad was facing a chronic illness and she cooked and cleaned for him while she was out of state.

"This is a part of my story," Whitmer said at a press conference earlier this month. "For anyone to be surprised that I have a family member who’s been having a lot of health issues that I showed up to check in ... they’re obviously not paying attention to who I am or what I do.

"...I showed up when I was needed. I did a lot of cooking, a lot of cleaning. I also did my day job, meaning I was on regular calls and conferences with my team.”

On March 2, before Whitmer's trip, the state lifted several restrictions on nursing home visitation policies, marking the first time since early in the pandemic that nursing homes statewide could allow visitors. The March 2 policies allowed family members who tested negative for COVID-19 immediately to visit relatives in a nursing home as long as the facility had not had a new COVID-19 case in the last 14 days, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement, Rodericka Applewhaite, spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party, touted Whitmer's response to the COVID-19 pandemic

"As Michigan reopens, national Republicans are throwing misleading political ads to distract from their failed response to combating COVID-19. This desperate attack on Governor Whitmer doesn’t change the fact that her leadership saved the lives of countless Michiganders, especially our seniors," Applewhaite said.

As of April 20, Get Michigan Working Again had reported raising $15,000, according to its state campaign finance disclosure. The money came from Tesla, which gave $10,000, and Perdue Farms, which gave $5,000.

Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette, who was then Michigan's attorney general, by 9 percentage points in 2018.

Republican candidates, including conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores and anti-COVID lockdown activist Garrett Soldano of Mattawan, have already announced campaigns to challenge Whitmer in 2022. Detroit Police Chief James Craig is also expected to seek the GOP nomination.

cmauger@detroitnews.com