MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette launched a bid for governor Tuesday, entering as the Republican front-runner by promising to be a “jobs governor” who will cut income taxes and high auto premiums and not accept that Michigan’s best economic days are in the past.
Schuette made the announcement at his annual barbeque in his hometown of Midland.
Schuette — a 63-year-old former congressman, state senator, Cabinet official and appellate judge — has cast himself as a “voice for victims” as Michigan’s top law enforcement officer. His investigation into Flint’s crisis over lead-tainted water led to criminal charges against 15 current and former government officials. But Schuette also faced criticism after the scandal was first exposed that he did not move fast enough to bring charges.
“My one goal, my singular ambition is to make Michigan a growth state, a paycheck state, a jobs state,” Schuette told hundreds of supporters at the county fairgrounds. “To achieve this, we must have a jobs governor.”
He called for lowering the state income tax from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent and warned against electing a Democrat as governor, citing the “lost decade” under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm when the state shed hundreds of thousands of jobs across two recessions. Second-term Republican Gov. Rick Snyder cannot run again due to term limits.
Schuette said Michigan has rebounded under GOP leadership but has only begun to fulfill its potential and families “have to start winning again.” He said “Democrat elites’ answer to lost jobs and lost income is more government and more dependency.”
Schuette, who can $1.5 million in his attorney general campaign account that can be used on his gubernatorial bid, is considered the favorite in the Republican primary. Dr. Jim Hines and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck are the main GOP candidates running so far, though Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is weighing a bid.
Democrats desperately want to retake the governorship. Their diverse field includes Gretchen Whitmer, a former legislative leader; ex-Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed; Shri Thanedar, an immigrant entrepreneur from India; and Bill Cobbs, a former Xerox executive.
Schuette cited his record defending the state’s affirmative action ban in college admissions, testing abandoned sexual assault evidence and combatting human trafficking.
His candidacy is no surprise. He has long said he intends to be “part of the conversation” about Michigan’s next generation of leadership. He has acknowledged the difficulty of winning the governorship given the cyclical nature of politics and voters’ desire for change but says the state cannot return to Democratic control.
Republicans’ hold on the White House and Congress could be a bonus in 2018 for Democrats, who will have been out of power at the state level for eight years. The last time a gubernatorial candidate won Michigan and was from the same party as the president was 1990.
The Democratic Governor’s Association said Schuette “is only on duty for special interests and political cronies,” accusing him of wasting public funds on “political” lawsuits and opposing the interests of working-class people. Democrats have long criticized Schuette for defending the state’s gay marriage ban and challenging former President Barack Obama’s health care law.