Tough Four Way Race for Governor in Michigan

Historically, when Republicans win the presidency, they have a difficult time electing a Republican governor in Michigan as well. It’s almost been three decades since it last happened, when John Engler won the gubernatorial race in 1990. Coming off the momentum of Donald Trump’s historic victory, a fired-up GOP base could make it easier for a Republican to become the next governor. But before the eventual nominee faces off in the general election, the Republican candidates will have their work cut out for them in the primary

Only one candidate has officially announced thus far, but spring is here and political junkies are already starting to take a stab at what they believe the field will look like and who the early favorites might be. From the way things are shaping up, there will be several great candidates and we could even see multiple candidates duking it out on the eve of the election when it’s all said and done. Crossing our fingers we will be slightly more accurate than a sports analyst predicting next year’s championship game or a meteorologist forecasting next week’s weather, here is our way-too-early, final four.

Jim Hines

If the name Jim Hines rings a bell, it’s probably because you’re old enough to remember Jim Hines was a gold medalist for the United States in the 1968 Olympics and the first man in history to break the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter race. This is not the same Jim Hines that announced his candidacy for governor in Michigan, although, maybe it could work in his favor.

Dr. Jim Hines is a physician from Saginaw, Michigan. Not only is Dr. Hines the first to officially announce, he made his candidacy known over a year ago in February of 2016.

The very first paragraph on the about page of his website gives us a pretty good indication of what his campaign will be all about. It states, “Dr. Jim Hines is not a politician. He has never run for office. He has spent his life putting people first, not politics.”

Talk about blunt and to the point. Clearly, he will be counting on the momentum from Donald Trump’s historic victory to help push him over the finish line.

Trump does have one obvious advantage over Hines, other than a seemingly unlimited supply of money, in that Trump’s name I.D. was close to 100%, and Hines’ was probably close to 0% before he announced. But don’t count him out before the game even begins. Although he announced his candidacy at a time that seemed outrageous to some, this was actually a brilliant move. The pundits, grassroots activists, and even the general public have started talking. “Have you heard about that Hines guy? He’s the one running for Governor. I think he’s a doctor or something.” This free advertising so early in the process might be exactly what he needs to be a contender at the top of the ticket.

He’s highly intelligent and has a plethora of experience as a physician. He’s also a small business owner since he manages his own practice. Previously, he was the chief of the medical staff of Covenant HealthCare, which his website says oversees more than 500 physicians. We also can’t neglect that Michigan’s current Governor Rick Snyder was a political outsider as well, a strategy that seemed to work pretty well for him.

The fact that he’s such an outsider not only is his greatest strength, but also probably his biggest weakness. He will certainly be attacked by his opponents for having zero experience when it comes to policymaking. We’ll see if he can hold his own and be articulate on a wide range of issues when questioned by the media or facing off in a debate.

And it’s just too early to tell whether Governor Snyder’s rein bids favorably for Dr. Hines. Sure, it gives him a glimmer of hope, but six years later, with Snyder’s approval rate making him one of the most disliked governor’s in the nation, could indicate this experiment in backing an outsider is not something Michigan voters want to do again anytime too soon.

Regardless of the result, Dr. Hines deserves a lot of credit for making a bid for the highest office in the state of Michigan as an outsider. Many voters in Michigan and across the United States made it clear in November they are willing to give an outsider a try.

Patrick Colbeck

Without a doubt, State Senator Patrick Colbeck is emerging as the “Tea Party” favorite.

Like Dr. Hines, his intelligence reaches heights above and beyond this atmosphere, graduating with degrees from the University of Michigan in Aerospace Engineering and the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. He will appeal to many voters that consider the economy to be the number one priority in Michigan, spending over 20 years in the private sector as an engineer and manager at several different companies.

Although they might not admit it publically, Colbeck has been a real thorn in the side for Republican leadership in the Senate at times, by speaking out against legislation that doesn’t align with his principles.

But while Colbeck’s political philosophy and voting record may seem extraterrestrial to some, many tea party activists and grassroots conservatives have idolized him since he took the oath of office in 2011.

It’s hard to argue against Colbeck’s conservative record, and he isn’t timid when it comes to standing up for what he believes is right or wrong. It’s admirable he’s stayed true to his principles and has kept the promises he made during his campaign. The same can’t be said for most political figures in Lansing.

Colbeck was a leader in the legislature for the passage of Right-to-Work legislation. He was outspoken regarding Obamacare and stood firmly against a state-based healthcare exchange and Medicaid Expansion. Education reform was a top priority for Colbeck in the Senate, opposing the Common Core Standards Initiative and pushing for legislation to expand school choice. He also took the ultimate conservative approach to Michigan’s infrastructure crisis, arguing it was not necessary to raise any taxes, and we could achieve the funding needed to fix our roads and bridges by simply reprioritizing existing funds.

Colbeck has done everything short of making an official announcement for governor. He told the Detroit Free Press back in January that he was “definitely considering” running for the seat in 2018. He acknowledged friends and supporters have encouraged him to run, and his name is being thrown around on Facebook and talk radio.

He will take some heat for not being a serious candidate. Critics will say his appeal is only to the most conservative of voters, and he could never gain traction with the number of moderates and independents necessary to win a general election. These critics better not count him out too soon. Although he may be a dark horse, he poses a serious threat. Colbeck is known as a tireless worker in the Senate, and personally knocked on thousands of doors to win his race. This, combined with his private sector experience and conservative record will make him a serious player in an age when voters are speaking out against more pragmatic, career politicians.  

Bill Schuette

It’s hard to pick front runner, since only one candidate has officially made their announcement, but if one must be named, it has to be Bill Schuette. Schuette currently serves as Michigan’s Attorney General, and has far more professional political experience than anybody else on this list. Schuette assumed office as Attorney General in 2011, but that’s not the only item on his lengthy resume.

In 1984 when he was 31, the recent graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law defeated incumbent Democrat Donald Albosta in the 10th District Congressional race, where he would serve until 1991. After a short stint with the Michigan Department of Agriculture, he was elected to the Michigan Senate in 1994, until he was term limited in 2003. He was then elected as a judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals, and served until 2009 when his term expired.

Schuette is believed by almost everyone that follows Michigan politics to be running for Governor in 2018 for a number of reasons. To start, at the 2016 Republican National Convention, he changed the name of his fundraising committee from “Bill Schuette for Attorney General” to “Bill Schuette for Michigan.” Then, when asked by the Associated Press in January whether he’ll run for governor, he replied “I intend to be ‘part of the conversation’ about Michigan’s next generation of leadership.”

In the interview, a main focus was education. He was displeased with how Michigan’s education system has done in the last decade compared to other states. He said, “We need to give more students more opportunity, more choices, more options on how their parents want to provide them their educational launching pad.”

He also discussed the economy, giving the Snyder administration and the Michigan Legislature credit for their work so far, but believes there’s more that can be done to continue to grow the economy. “If you look across the country, where most jobs are being built are where you can keep more of what you earn and the government takes less of what you make. I think that’s an important ingredient as to how (in) Michigan we need to go higher,” Schuette said.

Schuette’s vast history of political experience in various areas of our system will provide voters with confidence that he knows what he’s doing. Also, serving as an elected official in southeast Michigan, by far the state’s largest population center and as a statewide elected official, his name should be the most recognizable out of the bunch. Not to mention, as the lead on the Flint water crisis investigation, he has not only become more well-known on a state level, but nationally as well.

Schuette doesn’t seem to carry much baggage, but he will likely face the opposite criticism as Dr. Jim Hines. His opponents will do everything they can to paint him as a career politician, and they have a decent point considering his political career began just a few years after graduating from law school and has been going strong ever since. Only time will tell if Michigan voters will once again speak out against career politicians, or if the Snyder years have left a bad taste in their mouth and they are looking for someone that has the experience of Bill Schuette.

Brian Calley

For a man that just celebrated his 40th birthday last month, Brian Calley climbed the political ladder quickly. He’s a guy that has seemingly everything going for him, and even with his newly found fame, he remains extremely personable, humble, and down to earth.

He regularly runs in 5k’s and marathons for charity, and occasionally shows off his musical talent and ability to sing. He’s a family man, and his wife Julie Calley is now in the spotlight for winning a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives. It’s surprising the couple can find any time to sleep as the proud parents of three children.

Life hasn’t always been a breeze for Calley. He now openly shares how devastated he was at first when his daughter Reagan was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. Nobody would be surprised if he tried to hide this aspect of his personal life, in attempt to uphold a perfect image, but this is not what he decided to do. He’s become a great advocate for autism awareness and acceptance, even passing legislation to help people and their families that deal with it every day.  

Although he already serves at the highest level in the State of Michigan, he will be an attractive candidate to many grassroots conservatives. When he was first elected to the Michigan House in 2006, government accountability and transparency was a top priority. He worked to pass legislation while in the house, and as recently as February he said, “I look forward to working with Legislative partners to increase transparency and accountability, helping to increase people’s faith in government.” He stood strong with now Congressman Justin Amash, and former State Representatives Dave Agema and Tom McMillin when they co-sponsored legislation for a part-time legislature.

Faith in government is undoubtedly something many Michiganders have lost. Lansing is home to one of the most professionalized state political systems in the nation. But if government accountability and transparency are truly issues important to Calley, he will have to prove it with candidates like Jim Hines and Patrick Colbeck in the race trying to portray themselves as the real political outsiders.

Opponents will likely go after him for being part of the current administration. Although, it might be hard for Republicans to argue the Snyder administration has not significantly improved our economy, and that is likely to be Calley’s response.  Also, the major donors across the state still express loyalty to the Governor.

Michigan’s speedy recovery from the infamous “lost decade” has been quite remarkable. In that time, the administration has successfully passed Right-to-Work legislation, balanced the budget ahead of schedule, gotten rid of the Michigan Business Tax, passed a $1.2 billion road funding package, and prioritized skilled trades education. These highlights are a big reason for the unemployment rate being cut in half and creating half a million new jobs since the administration began 6 years ago.

Calley is likely to do everything he can to keep voters focused on the economic success of the administration.