Campaign

Detroit police chief planning GOP gubernatorial run against Whitmer

James Craig, a Republican and the chief of the Detroit Police Department, is preparing a campaign against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), handing the GOP a high-profile contender in one of the midterm cycle's marquee gubernatorial races. 

A source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that Craig is laying the groundwork for a bid and has spoken with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), the chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). A second source familiar with the matter confirmed that Craig has met with Ron Weiser, the chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and is expected to announce on Monday a plan for his retirement from the Detroit Police Department.

Local reporter Charlie LeDuff and Fox 2 first reported Friday evening that Craig is preparing to retire from the top post in the Detroit Police Department and is considering a challenge to Whitmer.

Craig is a veteran of several police departments across the country. Before coming to Detroit, his home city, in 2013, he was chief of the police departments in Cincinnati and Portland, Maine. He also was a police officer for decades in Los Angeles.

Craig's candidacy would provide Republicans with a contender who would be well-versed in the debate around police brutality and bias in the criminal justice system, which is sweeping the country following the high-profile deaths of Black Americans at the hands of the police.

Craig has been a staunch supporter of law enforcement throughout the debate but praised the conviction of Derek Chauvin on second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, saying the verdict was a sign the "justice system worked" but not representative of police officers across the country. 

The Detroit police chief also has voiced a slate of policies that would likely endear him to the GOP electorate, including saying that city residents should purchase guns to reduce crime.

Craig would likely draw attention from high-profile Republican backers given that the gubernatorial race is expected to be a top priority for both parties next year.

"Michigan deserves better, and James Craig, the current Chief of the Detroit PD, would be an excellent choice!" tweeted Dan Eberhart, a prominent GOP donor.

Republicans are on the hunt for a top-tier contender to face off against Whitmer. The RGA has also met with John James, a businessman who ran for Senate in Michigan in 2018 and 2020, losing by small margins both times.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also floated a potential run during a recent party meeting, but it's still unclear how seriously she's considering a bid. 

The GOP has made Whitmer a top target amid rising frustration among Republicans in Michigan over strict coronavirus rules in the Wolverine State. The party pounced after she recently went to Florida to visit her elderly father in violation of her administration's own health guidance.

Updated: 6:06 p.m.

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