As police chief of Detroit, James Craig said he tried to remain apolitical but privately had been very open about his allegiances.
Speaking to a group of GOP dignitaries in Jackson on Tuesday during an anniversary celebration of the founding of the Republican Party, Craig publicly declared his “proud membership” in the party.
“Privately, I found that my life experiences were leading me to vote Republican, including for President Trump in both elections.” James Craig, former Detroit Police Chief
Craig said his affiliation with Republicans was a long time coming.
“Like most African Americans growing up in Detroit, I was automatically considered a Democrat,” he said. “We’re born to Democrats, but over time, as you’ve had your own life experiences and the opportunity to form your own worldview, you come to your own conclusions.”
He talked about policing in major cities across the country led to him becoming a Republican and aligning with Republican candidates, including Donald Trump.
“Privately, I found that my life experiences were leading me to vote Republican, including for President Trump in both elections,” he said.
Craig’s attacks on liberal politicians hit familiar notes.
“Today’s Democratic Party wants to defund our police, open up our borders to criminals, and silence dissenting voices,” he said.
The border with Mexico is over 1,500 miles from Michigan. In each year that Craig was police chief in Detroit, the city ranked in the top five for violent crime.
The former chief also has an questionable record with silencing dissent. Craig is named in a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force by the Detroit Police Department. Many protesters were injured following non-violent, anti-police brutality demonstrations in the city last year.
Craig did not announce that he was running for the GOP nomination for governor, though he was critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic politicians — including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
Craig has been hinting at a run since he announced his retirement in May.
Six Republicans have formed a gubernatorial committee. All are lesser-known candidates. Among those who attended Craig’s 22-minute speech were Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser, Co-chairman Meshawn Maddock, other party officials, and various current and former state lawmakers.
After his speech, Craig evaded reporters and did not answer questions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.