(WXMI) — Back in September, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig had a "unique" campaign rollout.
Flanked by protesters on Belle Isle, Craig officially announced his run for governor, and when he did, most pointed to him as leader among the field of GOP candidates.
Now five months later, the field is 13 people large and new additions like businessmen Kevin Rinke and Perry Johnson, who can largely self-fund, have changed the scope of the race.
Over the past few months Craig says he’s been busy. “Meeting with different groups, different businesses," he says. "I’ve had a chance to find out some of their concerns. I met with a group of physicians, again, restaurant owners, just to find out what the issues are. And it's been eye opening, certainly been learning experience for me but people want change.
“Well, I got to tell you, a lot of fundraising, which I've come to learn. In my years of being a public servant, I didn't understand and recognize how much goes into really raising funds…very happy about what we've done. I'm certainly not a self-funded candidate. I call myself a blue-collar candidate. But I’m very motivated by the number of people that are out supporting us,” Craig said.
Craig’s campaign doesn’t lead the money race on the GOP side. Rinke has put $2 million into his own campaign, but Craig has raised the most from donors thus far. Though last quarter his campaign spent more money than they raised.
Moving forward, he says he’s excited about the changes to some of his staff. He has a new campaign manager and consultants who worked with Gov. Glen Youngkin, a Republican who won a tight race in Virginia last fall.
“When I have gone around different parts of the state, gone to fundraising, events, meetings, I feel the excitement, the momentum, you know; first thing people say to me is that they remember 2020, where cities were burning, they were looting. But Detroit didn't,” Craig said. “A lot of people tribute that to through leadership, certainly the relationships, coalitions that we built over the years on my watch and so people haven't forgotten that.”
But what plans does he have for Michigan? He says he doesn’t want to battle other GOP candidates; his focus is on incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Craig says her State of the State address was underwhelming.
“When we talk about our state, two things come to mind: we don't have an urgent enough response in dealing with the economic and educational challenges that we all know exists in our... in our state. If we don't take care of those issues, we'll never see being one of the top 10 states in our country,” Craig said.
“We have to focus on education; we have to identify talent so we can continue to increase our labor force, economic growth. We need more people in our state, and we need to create more businesses. That's critically important, but we have to create a business-friendly environment. We saw what happened with some of the draconian measures with, you know, mandatory masks, the shutdowns and the impact has had on our economic situation here in our state,” he added.
"Let's make incentives not only to keep the businesses we have here and our state but also attract new businesses," Craig said.
Craig and the other candidates will be on the ballot in the August primaries. The winner of that race will run against Governor Whitmer in the November election.