GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kevin Rinke can trace his family’s roots on Michigan soil back for generations.
But for the first time in his life, during the pandemic, Rinke considered leaving the state.
“Because of how our government was functioning, because of the decisions that Gretchen Whitmer was making, my wife and I were contemplating leaving the state and walking away,” he said. “My son, who was in on the conversation, said, ‘dad, fix the darn thing.’”
So it was then and there that Rinke, the CEO of a successful collection of car dealerships clustered all over the east side of the state, decided to enter the race for governor. Like the other four candidates, it would be Rinke’s first state-elected position and like the others, he sees himself as a political outsider here to shake things up.
Rinke sees the governor position as that of the role of state CEO; a role he says qualifies him and him alone based on professional experience.
“Of the 18 top Republican states, 16 of them are being run by first-time elected businesspeople, and they are booming economies and growing populations,” Rinke noted. “I’m responsible for the money that the citizens of the state of Michigan give to government to get them results, and that’s a burden that I would not take lightly.”
While a political outsider, Rinke calls back to his experience as a businessman and his time spent aiding former-president Gerald Ford after Ford left office. The two met at an event, realized they had a connection through Rinke’s father – who started the dealership chain after he got back from World War 2 – and Rinke helped Ford organize his charity golf tournaments for several months.
“He said, hey, would you be interested in helping me out? And I said, it would be an honor and a privilege,” said Rinke of that first meeting. “So for the next couple of months, I worked with him on his Pro-Am golf tournament.”
Rinke says that time shadowing the former president, and his political rival and friend democrat Tip O’Neill, taught him a great deal about bipartisanship.
“I watched those two men work together and I had the privilege of listening to them interact, and they always put the country before themselves,” Rinke said. “I would never use partisanship as an excuse for not accomplishing the goal of running the business of the state of Michigan better.”
As for policy, Rinke pegs education and business expansion as his top priorities. He wants more parental input in the classroom, plans to ban critical race theory and gender studies, and wants to see all Michigan public schools at a 95% literacy level by the time he hypothetically leaves office.
Rinke has also proposed the elimination of the state’s personal income tax, a barrier he sees to expanding business opportunities in Michigan.
“I believe we have a state that overtaxes, and applies taxes in the wrong areas and overregulates,” he said.
If you’ve seen his political ads, you also know Rinke has prioritized election integrity. Despite there being no evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities in the state’s 2020 election, Rinke wants to tighten up the system and says that’s something everyone should want too.
“We talk about divisive issues, well it’s divisive for the Republicans as well as the Democrats. And we somehow have to resolve that,” he said. “It has nothing to do with any past elections, it has to do with future elections.”
For someone whose spent his entire life here, Rinke sees this 2022 race for the governorship as a fight for the very fabric of the state itself.
“The greatest state in America,” he said, “and I plan on making Michigan great again.”
The Michigan primary election takes place on August 2nd. Polls are open in Michigan from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
To find your polling place or get other voter information, click here.