Michigan candidate for governor plans rally as alternative to GOP conference

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Garrett Soldano, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor, is planning a rally for Sept. 25 as an alternative to the state GOP's traditional conference on Mackinac Island.

Soldano, a Mattawan chiropractor and anti-lockdown activist, said late last week that he will hold a "We the People" rally at Friske Farm Market in Antrim County, the county that has become the focus of unproven claims of election fraud in Michigan.

The event "will focus on the necessity of election integrity and conducting a forensic audit of the 2020 election," a statement from Soldano's campaign said. The Michigan Republican Party's Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference is Sept. 24-26, with national GOP figures scheduled to be in attendance, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Garrett Soldano is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

Soldano has previously said he won't attend the conference, which is a customary stop for statewide political candidates. He has accused the Michigan GOP of attempting to "rig the primary" in favor of James Craig, the former Detroit police chief who is expected to run for governor but hasn't formally announced his bid.

"We the people will choose our nominee, not them," Soldano said in a Thursday statement. "I am excited to join grassroots leaders who led the charge against Whitmer's tyrannical lockdown agenda."

Ron Weiser, the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, has made positive comments about Craig's candidacy and appeared at an event in Jackson County in July when the former chief gave an address. John Yob, a political consultant who's close to Weiser, is also helping with Craig's campaign.

Meshawn Maddock, the co-chairwoman of the Michigan GOP, has denied that the party is unfairly supporting one of the candidates.

"The party has not picked candidates," Maddock said at a 14th Congressional District Republican Committee meeting on Aug. 29.

"You can't help it if you are a candidate that gets a lot more media attention than other people," Maddock added, according to a recording obtained by The Detroit News. "You can't blame that candidate for that. You also can't blame certain candidates that they're able financially to hire consultants who have incredible contacts that help them in their campaigns."

Craig, Soldano and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores are currently viewed as the top candidates in the race for the GOP nomination for governor. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to seek reelection in 2022.

Soldano's rally will feature conservative radio host "Trucker" Randy Bishop, Pastor Jason Georges and Jayme McElvany, founder of Let Them Play, a group that advocated for high school sports to be allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release.

The Sept. 25 rally will be held in conservative Antrim County, where initial election results had Democrat Joe Biden winning there by 3,260 votes with 62% of the overall total. Republican Donald Trump received 36%.

After realizing there were problems with the numbers, Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy's office canvassed the election results and reported the official tallies: Trump had actually won the county by 3,788 votes, 61%-37%, a 7,048-vote swing from the unofficial results.

The incorrect initial tallies were spurred by human errors — the failure to properly prepare equipment after late changes to the ballot designs. But Trump supporters have claimed there were problemswith election software and votes were flipped.

cmauger@detroitnews.com