Finley: GOP gov race will be Trump test
The 2018 governor’s race got a little more gel this week, with Attorney General Bill Schuette’s no-surprise announcement that he’s officially in the race, and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s embarkment on a listening tour that will put him before voters across the state leading up to a decision late next month.
Calley’s tour feels a lot like a campaign swing, and I still believe he’ll ultimately be in the race.
If so, the Calley/Schuette match-up in the Republican primary next August will be one of the clearest tests in the nation of whether GOP voters still stand with President Donald Trump.
Neither Calley nor Schuette was on the Trump train when it first pulled out of the station. But when his nomination became inevitable, Schuette jumped on with enthusiasm, and rode with and ended up an enthusiastic supporter and unflinching defender of candidate Trump right into Election Day.
Calley climbed aboard for a while, but exited one month before the presidential balloting amid allegations that Trump was a serial groper.
“The latest revelations about Donald Trump and his past make it impossible for me to maintain support of him,” Calley said in a statement. He sat out the rest of the campaign.
One of the things Calley will be listening for as he travels the state is whether Republican voters consider it an irredeemable sin not to support the party’s nominee, or if there’s enough Trump ambivalence in the GOP base to give him a pass for his moment of conscience.
Other factors will play into the contest, most notably Flint. Calley was part of a Snyder administration that is widely blamed for starting the city’s water crisis in motion with the appointment of an emergency manager.
Schuette has sought to distance himself from the Flint fall-out by launching an aggressive investigation that has resulted in criminal charges against several state employees.
A key variable in this race is the entrance of state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township. Colbeck is a tea party darling. While he can’t match the fundraising prowess of the two leading contenders, he has a a very loyal group of followers, most of whom Schuette would expect to get.
If Colbeck, also an avid Trump fan, could peel away enough staunch conservatives, it would provide an opening for Calley, whose appeal would be to moderate Republicans and independents who choose to vote in the GOP primary.
While it looks for the moment that whoever wins the GOP primary will face Gretchen Whitmer, the former Senate minority leader, in the general election, that race is hardly settled. Potential challengers keep sticking their toes in the water.
The latest isn’t a big name candidate, but he is a candidate with a big name. Andy Levin, son of longtime Democratic Congressman Sander Levin of Royal Oak is hinting he may seek the nomination. Levin is a green energy consultant and former workforce official in the Granholm administration.
He’s mostly been a candidate in waiting for his father to retire and hand down the congressional seat. Not well known on his own, he does carry the Levin handle. And labor has always been good to his dad and uncle, former Sen. Carl Levin.
It’s early in the prognosticating season. I don’t believe any of the 2018 fields are fully formed. But we are starting to see some interesting movement.
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