Two Republican candidates who lost by big margins say they're 'not conceding'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Two Michigan Republicans who lost their primary races by more than 10 percentage points declared on social media Wednesday that they were "not conceding" while make dubious claims of election day wrongdoing.

Real estate broker Ryan Kelley, who finished in fourth place in Michigan's GOP primary race for governor and was 25 percentage points behind the winner, Tudor Dixon, was the first candidate to question the results. The Allendale man posted a statement at about 1:24 a.m. on some of his social media platforms. Then, at about 5 a.m., he released the same message on his official Facebook page.

Then, at about 1:30 p.m., Michigan Senate candidate Mike Detmer of Howell, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, posted that he was "not buying" the results of the election. Detmer lost his race to incumbent Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, by about 16 percentage points, according to unofficial election results.

Michigan's Republican candidate for governor Ryan Kelley speaks with members of the media after the seventh debate at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan on July 20, 2022.

"When we have full, independent, unfettered forensic audits of 2020 and 2022, I'll consider the results," Detmer said on Facebook.

Both developments on Wednesday, a day after Michigan's primary election, pointed to some candidates' willingness to spread conspiracy theories about results without evidence to back up their claims.

Kelley tied his dubious claim about the election's outcome to "testing" numbers, apparently referring to fake tallies that had been mistakenly posted days earlier by media outlets in west Michigan as they prepared for Election Day programming.

"Looks like the 'testing' was not testing after all, and it was a release of their preferred and predetermined outcome," Kelley said.

His statement added, "Let’s see the GOP and the predetermined winner call for a publicly supervised hand recount to uphold election integrity."

On July 25, west Michigan's WWMT-TV News Channel 3 said it had "inadvertently" published mock results on its website.

"The numbers used were randomly generated and did not reflect actual results," the station said.

The Michigan Secretary of State's office said in a statement online sites that "regularly spread conspiracy theories, misinformation and other falsehoods have unsurprisingly seized" on the TV station's mistake "as evidence of something nefarious when it is nothing more than human error by an organization that has nothing to do with election administration."

Hundreds of local election officials administer elections in Michigan. Unofficial results are reported in each county after polls close.

Bipartisan boards of canvassers will later examine the numbers in all 83 counties before deciding whether to certify them.

Conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores won the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday. She captured 40% of the vote in the five-candidate race. Businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township got second place with 22%, and chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan finished third at 18% of the vote.

Kelley came in fourth place with 15% of the vote.

Both Rinke and Soldano conceded.

Kelley was one of former President Donald Trump's supporters in Michigan who made unproven claims of fraud in the November 2020 election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump backers attempted to overturn Biden's 154,000-vote victory, but it was upheld by a series of court rulings, more than 200 audits and an investigation by the Republican-controlled state Senate Oversight Committee.

On June 9, Kelley was arrested on misdemeanor charges that he committed crimes during the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection in Washington, D.C. He has pleaded not guilty.

cmauger@detroitnews.com