Former Detroit police chief takes step toward gubernatorial run

James Craig, the former chief of the Detroit Police Department, took a key step Wednesday toward launching a gubernatorial campaign, announcing he was setting up an exploratory committee.

While he stopped short Wednesday of formally announcing a bid, Craig released a campaign-style ad titled “Leading From the Front” and said he will soon start a statewide tour.

Much of the video centered around Craig’s career in law enforcement, suggesting he would be a bulwark against rising crime and take a stance against protests over civil unrest.

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“As a leader, we led from the front, we turned it around and made Detroit a safer city,” he said. “I met with so many in our community so that we can build that trust-based relationship. We did that. And as a result, following the tragic death of [George] Floyd in Minneapolis, Detroit never burned.” 

“We need to bring our state back by leading from the front,” he added. “What’s this all about? I’m opening an exploratory committee to help me think about a run for governor for the state of Michigan. This is about leading from the front, keeping people safe, which is a core responsibility, solving problems. That’s what Michigan needs.”

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.

The announcement suggested Craig would focus on crime, and he has been a staunch supporter of law enforcement throughout the debate over police misconduct and civil rights. However, he did praise the conviction of Derek Chauvin on second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.

A formal announcement on a campaign launch is anticipated after Labor Day.

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Craig would join a crowded primary field for the opportunity to take on Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerWhitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll Michigan developing electrified road to wirelessly charge EVs, Whitmer says Michigan GOP governor hopeful says he would support state abortion ban: recording MORE (D), with the prospect that the group could grow even further. A number of high-profile Republicans, including Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, former Detroit Police Department Chief James Craig and former GOP Senate nominee John James, have also either expressed interest in running or are considered potential candidates.

Democrats piled on Craig’s announcement, suggesting he would not help curb rising crime, pointing to his positions advocating for gun possession.

“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 — clinging to this non-existent ‘exploratory’ status is just the latest of his question-dodging tactics. He should immediately explain to voters why he’s for guns in schools and has looked the other way on violent militia uprisings in Washington and Lansing,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes.

The GOP has made Whitmer a top target heading into the midterm elections, looking to seize on frustration among the base over coronavirus restrictions. Whitmer drew an avalanche of criticism earlier this year when she was seen in a large group at a bar in May and earlier in the year traveled to Florida to visit her elderly father in violation of the state government’s guidelines.

Still, Whitmer will be tough to beat. Beyond enjoying broad name recognition, her campaign announced Tuesday that it raised $8.5 million so far this year, a larger haul than any gubernatorial candidate in the state has raised in any previous full off-year for an election cycle.