John Engler endorses Dixon; Rinke launches ad touting Donald Trump

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former Gov. John Engler endorsed conservative commentator Tudor Dixon for the state's top job on Thursday morning while another Republican candidate, businessman Kevin Rinke, released an ad tying himself to Donald Trump.

The moves came 26 days before the primary election on Aug. 2 when GOP voters will select a nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

Engler, a Republican who served three terms as Michigan's governor, previously supported and advised former Detroit police Chief James Craig in the primary race. But because of a wave of fraudulent petition signatures, Craig was disqualified from the Aug. 2 ballot.

The former governor contended Dixon is the person who can bring the GOP together to win against Whitmer.

"Tudor Dixon is a common-sense, optimistic leader whose integrity and willingness to listen to people and understand how they are thinking through and responding to the extraordinary pressures of our time sets her apart from the current leadership in Lansing," Engler said in a statement that was released by Dixon's campaign. "Tudor knows that to restore a Michigan that works we need practical solutions that will improve people’s lives."

Dixon of Norton Shores is one of five Republicans on the ballot in the gubernatorial primary. Craig is pursuing the nomination as a write-in candidate.

Engler's endorsement came a day after a debate in Grand Rapids, where another GOP hopeful, chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan, labeled Dixon the "establishment-backed candidate."

Dixon has also been endorsed the DeVos family, Right to Life of Michigan, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake and U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and Lisa McClain of Bruce Township.

Engler was Michigan's governor from 1991 until 2003.

Also on Thursday, Rinke of Bloomfield Township, who has pledged to spend $10 million of his own money on his campaign, released a new ad describing himself as "an outsider and businessman like President Trump."

In the ad, Rinke says Whitmer and Democratic President Joe Biden "blame Trump" when their policies fail.

"But while liberals pointed fingers, President Trump didn’t back down," the ad says. "Neither will Kevin Rinke."

Trump, who remains a highly influential figure in Michigan GOP politics, hasn't endorsed a candidate in the primary race. According to Rinke's campaign, the new ad buy will be at least $1 million.

cmauger@detroitnews.com