Column: What’s next in GOP race for governor?
Less than a month remains in the Republican race to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder before the filing deadline for candidates.
Snyder recently endorsed Lt. Gov. Brian Calley as his heir apparent, but the endorsement did little to change the dynamics in the race for the party’s gubernatorial nomination. While everyone has known for years Snyder would endorse Calley the actual announcement seemed hastily put together.
First, the advisory sent by the Calley campaign to reporters teasing the endorsement listed the wrong month for when the announcement would occur. Then there were the visuals at the announcement itself. Snyder and Calley stood almost alone. Of the five people flanking them, one was the father of Calley’s political consultant, another was an employee of that consultant’s firm and another was a long-time client of the consultant, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. These missteps came a week after Calley drew criticism for using staff from his taxpayer-funded lieutenant governor’s office in his campaign’s first TV ad.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Schuette remains the frontrunner, despite a poll from the Calley campaign claiming that the race is tightening. Schuette, who already counts the endorsement of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, received a boost with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce — arguably the state Republican Party’s biggest ally.
What remains to be seen is whether Schuette or Calley will announce their running mate before the August primary election.
For Schuette it would be a good way to keep attention on his campaign, as pretty much everyone in GOP circles assumes he will win the nomination. This sense of inevitability presents a major risk as Calley’s best chance for an upset involves a scenario with low voter turnout and hard-right, also-running candidates state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines taking just enough votes from Schuette’s column to split the conservative vote.
Regardless of the eventual nominee or whether the pick is made before or after the primary, the running mate will have to be from the critical electoral battleground of Metro Detroit.
On Schuette’s short list has to be Livonia state Rep. Laura Cox; Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who ran on the 2006 ticket of Dick DeVos. Johnson and Cox are both running for the state Senate, but so was Calley when Snyder picked him in 2010.
For Calley, Land is unlikely, despite her curious reemergence after losing campaigns for lieutenant governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2014. She will probably end up as Michigan Republican Party chairwoman under a Calley administration. Miller, who flirted with endorsing Calley before getting on team Schuette, would have to be considered as would Colbeck.
The biggest challenge will be maintaining gender balance, as it looks increasingly likely that the rest of the nominees on the Republican ticket in November’s general election could be men.
Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant.