Michigan businessman prepping $10M for potential governor campaign, adviser says

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News
Kevin Rinke

Lansing — Metro Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke, a Republican, is planning an initial investment of $10 million in his potential campaign for governor, an adviser said Monday, the day candidates already in the race had to file their first fundraising disclosures.

Rinke of Bloomfield Township, whose family has owned and operated auto dealerships in the state, has previously said he's "seriously considering" running for governor. His ability to self-fund his campaign could give him an advantage over the current field of GOP competitors and the chance to immediately cut into the large fundraising lead of incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan's last Republican governor, Rick Snyder, used about $6 million of his own wealth to boost his campaign in the 2010 primary.

"Kevin Rinke — like any successful businessman — is doing his due diligence on this campaign," said Chris Grant, who's advising Rinke on a potential run for governor. "It's become abundantly clear that no other candidate can put together the campaign and resources necessary to defeat Gov. Whitmer.

"That's why he's prepared to initially invest $10 million to stop Gretchen Whitmer's misguided administration."

Grant's statement came Monday, the deadline for Michigan candidates to file their first fundraising disclosures covering 2021. Whitmer's reelection campaign has already said it's raised $8.5 million so far this year and has about $10 million in the bank as of July 20.

The most active Republican fundraiser so far has collected about $624,000. The potential $10 million investment from Rinke could be a game-changer for the primary race, political observers said Monday.

"Instantly eliminating Gov. Whitmer's astronomical cash advantage would push him to the top tier here and capture the imagination of the national GOP power structure," said John Sellek, CEO of the Michigan-based consulting firm Harbor Strategic Public Affairs.

But Sellek said Rinke would face similar questions as former Detroit police Chief James Craig, another GOP contender whose stances on key political issues are somewhat unknown. The excitement of matching Whitmer's money will fade quickly, Sellek said.

So far, eight Republican candidates have formed campaign committees to seek the GOP nomination next year. Two of them — Craig and Articia Bomer of Detroit — launched their committees after the end of the fundraising period, meaning they won't have to file their first reports until October.

Craig, whom many consider to be the early front-runner, formed what he described as an exploratory committee on Wednesday. However, during an appearance on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News later that day, Craig said he was "running" and planned to hold Whitmer accountable.

Chiropractor and anti-lockdown activist Garrett Soldano of Mattawan reported raising $624,847 since announcing his candidacy in April. Soldano's campaign spent $249,203 and had $375,643 available at the end of the reporting period.

Pastor Ralph Rebandt of Washington reported raising $170,221 and spending $150,240 as of July 20. His campaign had $19,980 at the end of the period. Rebandt personally supplied $60,902 of his fundraising haul according to a disclosure.

Conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores reported raising $132,535 from May 24, when her committee formed, until July 20. She spent $45,218 during the period, leaving her with $87,316 still available.

Right-wing activist Ryan Kelley of Allendale reported raising $34,954. Bob Scott of Howell reported raising $1,177. And Austin Chenge of Grand Rapids has a waiver from filing disclosures, meaning he doesn't plan to raise or spend more than $1,000.