James Craig’s Gubernatorial Campaign Kickoff Was Either a Disaster or a Big Win, Depending on Who You Ask

Some political observers argue that the bedlam wasn’t all bad for the former chief.

After months of indirectly and directly saying he would run for governor as a Republican, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig held a campaign kickoff event on Tuesday. But the announcement was chaotic, as Detroit Will Breathe protesters chanted Craig down as he attempted to make his speech.

“They seem to have wanted this confrontation.” –Chad Livengood, Crain’s Detroit Business

Some political observers argue that the bedlam wasn’t all bad for the former chief. Craig later got national attention from Fox News, leading people to ask if the bungled rollout was a good political strategy or if his campaign is destined for failure.

Listen: Was James Craig gubernatorial campaign kickoff event a victory or a face plant?


Eli Newman/WDET
Eli Newman/WDET

Chad Livengood is senior editor with Crain’s Detroit Business. He notes that Craig likely wanted the flak from protesters to gain national attention, raising more money and scoring the primary spot. “They seem to have wanted this confrontation,” Livengood says of Craig’s campaign. At 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Craig was invited on to Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, giving him the opportunity to play up his “tough-on-crime” position. 

“This was not a campaign kickoff to necessarily appease the media or appeal to Detroiters,” says Livengood. Rather, he says, Craig’s campaign was trying to win over primary voters in places like Shelby Township. 

Bryce Huffman is a reporter and producer for BridgeDetroit. He says Craig appeals to older Detroiters and those who have a lot of problems with how younger people vocalize opposition to the police. “Detroiters are more conservative than I think a lot of people are willing to give them credit for,” Huffman says of older, more frequent Detroit voters. Huffman was skeptical that Craig would be able to gain enough votes to thwart Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s chances in Detroit.

Still, Huffman says that Craig — unlike other Republican statewide candidates in recent years — has relationships with Detroiters who are often unaware of his broader Republican affiliations, giving him a legitimate shot at winning their votes.

Web story written by Jake Neher and Sam Corey

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