Gov. Gretchen Whitmer submits petitions: 'Ready to run for reelection'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she's "just getting started" Thursday as her campaign submitted about 30,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot as she seeks reelection.

Standing outside a Secretary of State building in downtown Lansing, the Democratic incumbent spoke to a crowd of about 100 people — many of whom held signs that said "Michigan first" — before the petitions were turned over to election officials.

"The surprises that we have had to deal with over the last few years have been something out of fiction. Right?" Whitmer told the crowd. "And yet, we've stood together, stood our ground and delivered for the people of this great state. And we are ready to run for reelection."

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt Gov Garlin Gilchrist hold a rally on the mall near the Capitol before delivering signed petitions to put them on the ballot.

Whitmer's bid for a second term is expected to gain the national spotlight and be hotly contested.

Michigan is a battleground state. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, won it by 3 percentage points in 2020. Four years earlier, former President Donald Trump, a Republican, won it by less than 1 percentage point. Whitmer, whom Biden considered selecting as his running mate, is also viewed as a rising star in Democratic politics nationally.

Eleven Republicans have formed campaign committees to seek their party's nomination in August to challenge her. They include former Detroit police Chief James Craig, conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, Metro Detroit businessmen Perry Johnson and Kevin Rinke, and Mattawan chiropractor Garrett Soldano.

So far, only Soldano has turned in petition signatures to get on the ballot.

To make the primary ballot, major party candidates for statewide offices must collect at least 15,000 valid signatures. The filing deadline is April 19. The maximum number of signatures they can submit is 30,000.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt Gov Garlin Gilchrist hold a rally on the mall near the Capitol before delivering signed petitions to put them on the ballot Thursday, March 17 in Lansing.

The Republican National Committee blasted Whitmer on Thursday.

"After four long years of rising prices, lockdowns, scandals and abuse of power, Michiganders are counting down the days until they can finally say goodbye to Gretchen Whitmer and her reign of terror," said Preya Samsundar, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

Whitmer's speech Thursday focused on bipartisanship and what she described as "fundamentals": good-paying jobs, schools, road improvements, expanding access to health care and protecting voting rights.

"We have made a lot of progress, but we are just getting started," she said.

She touted a planned $7 billion electric vehicle investment from General Motors Co., which was announced in January; efforts to expand the budget for K-12 education; and securing $400 refund checks for drivers after changes to auto insurance laws.

Speaking to reporters afterward, she declined to discuss her potential Republican challengers, saying she's going to stay focused on economic development, schools and small businesses.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer embraces a supporter on Thursday, March 17, 2022, before submitting her petition signatures to make the ballot for the 2022 election.

Asked if she'll do anything about high gas prices, Whitmer noted a letter she sent to congressional leaders, asking them to suspend the federal gas tax of 18 cents per gallon.

The Republican leaders of the state Legislature have their own bill to suspend the state's gas tax of 27 cents per gallon for six months. But Whitmer has voiced opposition to the proposal, which failed to gain the required support to take effect immediately.

"What they passed wouldn't even take effect for a year," Whitmer said. "That's not real relief."

The governor touted her proposals to increase the earned income tax credit and ease taxes on retirement income.

"We want to give Michiganders relief," Whitmer said. "We're making strides on that. If there are additional solutions that we can pursue, I'm eager to do that."

Republican lawmakers have also sent her a bill that would cut taxes by $2.5 billion. It would drop the state's income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9%, increase tax deductions for seniors and allow parents to claim $500 credits for each of their dependents.

Whitmer has expressed concerns about the bill but hasn't vetoed it yet. She's called it "fiscally irresponsible" and "unsustainable."

A former state lawmaker, Whitmer won her first term as governor by 9 percentage points in 2018 over Republican Bill Schuette, who was then the attorney general.