Donald Trump isn't ready to endorse in Michigan governor's race, two allies say

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former President Donald Trump isn't ready to make an endorsement in Michigan's Republican primary race for governor, two of his top allies in the state contended on Tuesday.

One of those confidants, GOP attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno, spoke to Trump on Monday night, said Tyson Shepard, spokesman for DePerno's campaign. In the conversation, it was "abundantly clear that the president is not ready to endorse Tudor Dixon at this point," Shepard told The Detroit News on Tuesday.

There have been expectations among some Michigan Republicans that Trump would soon support Dixon, a conservative commentator and businesswoman from Norton Shores, in the five-candidate primary contest.

Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno, the likely Republican nominee for attorney general, speaks on April 2 at a rally with former President Donald Trump at the Michigan Stars Sports Center in Washington Township. Trump has endorsed DePerno's bid to knock off Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, but has so far stayed out of the Republican primary for governor.

Dixon, whom Trump has previously touted, has been gaining momentum in recent days after winning endorsements from west Michigan's DeVos family and Right to Life of Michigan.

Meshawn Maddock, co-chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said she spoke to Trump on Thursday. Like DePerno, Maddock said Trump is currently not prepared to endorse.

"It really seems to be more of a manufactured buzz,” Shepard said of the idea of Trump endorsing Dixon in the immediate future.

Looming over the comments is the fact that DePerno, who is set to be the GOP nominee for attorney general, went on a tour of the Upper Peninsula with Republican gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor from Mattawan, over the weekend.

DePerno has been involved in endorsement discussions with Trump, Shepard said.

In a statement Tuesday, Dixon said her campaign is prepared to defeat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

"He challenged me to build a strong campaign that will win," Dixon said of Trump. "That’s what I’m focused on doing, and I will not let him down.

Michigan's primary election is on Aug. 2. However, absentee ballots will become widely available later this month.

On the campaign trail, Dixon has received praise from Trump, including in February when the former president appeared at a fundraiser she held at his Mar-a-Lago property.

"We really have somebody very special in Tudor," Trump said, according to a video of the event. "She's in there working very, very hard."

A wave of fraudulent petition signatures has reshaped the Republican primary race, knocking five of the candidates out of the contest, including former Detroit police Chief James Craig, whom many viewed as the front runner, and businessman Perry Johnson of Bloomfield Hills, who spent millions of dollars on TV advertising.

Both Craig and Johnson had sought Trump's backing.

Political consultants have said in recent days that Trump's endorsement could sway the primary race, which features candidates who have not run for public office previously.

"This is Donald Trump’s nomination to lose," Richard Czuba, pollster and founder of the Glengariff Group, said last month.

During a debate at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference on Thursday, four of the remaining candidates said they would pursue Trump's backing.

But, at that debate, businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township noted that Trump didn't endorse Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin until after he won at that state's Republican convention in 2021.

"I am taking an approach like Glenn Youngkin did to win Michigan for the Republican Party," Rinke said. "And President Trump showed tremendous restraint and appropriately endorsed Gov.-elect Youngkin at the right time."

Trump staying out of the race could benefit Rinke, who has the ability to self-fund his campaign.

Trump remains "all in" for getting DePerno, a Kalamazoo lawyer, elected attorney general, the state's top law enforcement position, elected over Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel, DePerno's spokesman Shepard said on Tuesday.