Craig Campaign Rollout Disrupted and Delayed by Protesters

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s announcement that he was officially running for governor has been expected for months. The surprise came in how the event played out.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced Tuesday that he is running as a Republican for governor of Michigan. Craig retired in June, has already said he will run, and this announcement has been expected for months.

The surprise was how the event played out.

This was not a smooth operation as campaign rollouts go.

Russ McNamara/WDET
Russ McNamara/WDET

The location on Belle Isle with the Detroit River and the city’s skyline as a backdrop might have been idyllic. The weather was warm. The sun was out.

And It was apparently also a perfect day for a protest against James Craig.

And protesters showed up. And they were loud.

“I’m just here to say one thing,” Craig tried to say as the the din from the demonstrators drowned him out.

“… I got one thing to say. I’m running for governor. I’m running for governor of the state Michigan.”

And then Craig retreated from the podium and the protesters to a nearby SUV and was whisked away. Craig supporters said they were angry and disappointed.

“If they’re all about peace and equality then they should have let both sides — instead of attacking, like they just did, attacking him, and with the blaring and the sirens and all that,” said Craig supporter Teuta Duenez. “It’s just not fair, you know?”

Craig said he believes the demonstrators were paid provocateurs, saying first he knows who they are before acknowledging he had no evidence to back that claim.

“I don’t have any hard evidence,” he said, “but I feel like they were paid.”

At the new venue, roughly an hour and a half later, Craig resumed announcing his candidacy — focusing his criticisms on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her COVID-19 pandemic response.

“Our governor has been more focused on political science rather than actual science from the beginning,” he said.

Craig said he’s opposed to shutdown orders, and mask and vaccine mandates in schools. He said those decisions should be up to parents. Craig said he successfully ensured Detroit was not harmed during Detroit Will Breathe protests, but made no mention of a court order limiting the tactics and weapons Detroit officers were allowed to use after complaints of excessive force.

Craig joins a field of a dozen or more candidates already in or expected to soon join the Republican primary race.

Craig Could Hold a Key for GOP, Consultant Says

Republican political consultant John Sellek said Craig could hold a key that’s long eluded GOP tickets.

“The GOP certainly has long wanted to make inroads in African American cities,” he told Michigan Public Radio. “There tends to be a lot of voters, especially seniors, who are regular churchgoers. They tend to be a little bit more conservative culturally, but they’ve never been able to make an inroad there.”

Sellek said Craig could bridge that aspiration to attract more African American voters while also appealing to so-called “law-and-order” voters who don’t like the Black Lives Matter protests.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made no formal announcement on her plans, but she is expected to seek reelection next year. She’s been prolifically fundraising and is expected to formally announce her intentions soon.

Listen: Craig announcement was expected, but the surprise was in how the rollout played out.

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