Former Detroit police chief launches exploratory committee for Michigan governor

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig effectively launched his campaign for Michigan governor on Wednesday, announcing that he has formed an exploratory committee for the position. 

Craig, a Republican, retired as Detroit police chief on June 1. Seven other Republicans have formed campaign committees, but Craig is more widely known than the other contenders and is seen by some Michigan Republicans as a top contender to challenge Democratic incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Craig’s campaign said in a press release that a formal campaign launch and rallies will likely take place after Labor Day. For now, Craig is starting to raise money and will be going on a statewide listening tour. 

“I led as Chief of Police — and began my life — on the streets of Detroit,” Craig said in a statement. “Now it is time to travel the state, and visit other communities. I will be talking with law enforcement, hosting small business roundtables, and meeting with voters in their homes to hear about the negative impact the current Governor’s policies are having on their communities, their workplaces, and their families.”

In a video released by the campaign, Craig touted his career in law enforcement and experience leading the Detroit Police Department. He highlighted his efforts to keep Detroit safe last summer amid nationwide protests against the police killings of Black people. He also spoke about his memories of Detroit’s 1967 riots and his work to improve the city’s police department.  

“We led from the front, we turned it around and made Detroit a safer city,” Craig said in the video.

Craig also took a thinly veiled swipe at Whitmer, saying Michigan has “had enough” of politicians not following their own rules. Whitmer apologized in May after she was pictured not following COVID regulations at a restaurant with friends. 

Since his retirement from the police department, Craig has made several appearances on Fox News and recently gave political speeches at GOP events in Jackson and Grand Rapids. At the Grand Rapids event on Monday, Craig vowed to win over voters in some urban areas. He also criticized Whimter’s decision to close schools for part of the pandemic and her handling of unemployment claims.

“You can’t change the world sitting at home in your pajamas getting free money waiting on Queen Gretchen to issue her royal decree,” Craig said, according to The Detroit News

In a statement, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said, “James Craig is just another politician that thinks he can get through this messy and crowded GOP field of far-right extremists without any accountability on his stances.” 

Over a year away from the general election, Whitmer has built a formidable campaign war chest. Her campaign announced on Tuesday that she has raised more than $8.5 million so far this year and has more than $10 million cash on hand.