In a long anticipated development, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley announced Tuesday he wants to be governor of Michigan.
Calley made the news official after hinting at an announcement for months — most recently at a Monday appearance with Gov. Rick Snyder, where he took partial credit for Michigan's improved economy, citing his work on corporate tax cuts and streamlining and elimination of business regulations and told reporters to "stay tuned for some big news" on Tuesday.
"I am proud to have been an integral part of Michigan’s extraordinary rise from the recession that plagued our state during the ‘Lost Decade,' " Calley said in a news release early Tuesday, referencing a nationwide recession that hit Michigan especially hard from 2000 to 2009.
"We set out to make Michigan the comeback state and that’s exactly what we did. I am running for governor to build on this strong foundation and make Michigan the most prosperous state in the nation.”
Calley joins a Republican field that includes Attorney General Bill Schuette, the acknowledged frontrunner, as well as Saginaw Township physician Dr. Jim Hines, and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton.
Snyder, who has clashed with Schuette over several issues, including the attorney general's criminal investigation of the Flint drinking water contamination, stopped just short of endorsing Calley on Monday.
"This is about fundamentally making Michigan a great place to live work and play for generations to come," Snyder said. "The foundation is set and let's go. And I'm proud to have a wonderful partner who has ... led so many different initiatives that are making a difference in Michigan's future."
Snyder, who can't run again in 2018 because of term limits, has rejected suggestions he might step down early — a move that would make Calley governor and allow him to run as an incumbent.
Calley has been hinting at a run since April, when he spent $500,000 in online advertising touting his credentials without an official announcement. He followed that up with a tease that he would make a major announcement on Mackinac Island before the annual Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference. But that turned into a rally for a petition drive to put a part-time Legislature on the 2018 ballot, an effort that has been riddled with problems that Calley has since turned over to other people to spearhead.
He started a statewide town hall “listening” tour last month, to gauge the issues that are important to Michigan voters in the months before he made a final decision about the Governor’s race.
On Monday, he appeared with Snyder in Detroit to illustrate his role in the state’s “comeback” as Snyder’s second-in-command.
By not officially announcing a run for the office sooner, Calley was able to operate as a sitting elected official, without the constraints, or cost, of a gubernatorial campaign.
"You can do the job and not be looked at as just a candidate," said Lansing political consultant Tom Shields, of Marketing Resource Group.
But by waiting, Calley is behind other candidates who have been in the race for months.
Schuette officially entered the race in September and already has a $2.1 million cash balance in his campaign. He’s also received the endorsements of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and a host of prominent Michigan Republicans.
Calley's last report showed a cash balance of about $1.2 million.
Hines has contributed more than $500,000 to his own campaign and Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, has been racking up conservative endorsements, but reported only $13,232 in his campaign account at the end of October.
On the Democratic side, former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed, have raised $2.3 million and $1.6 million respectively for their races and retired Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar, has contributed nearly $6 million of his own money to his campaign.
Other Democrats in the race are Farmington Hills businessman Bill Cobbs and emergency medical services driver Kentiel White of Southgate.
Prior to serving as lieutenant governor, Calley served two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives and two terms as an Ionia County commissioner and worked for over a decade in community banking.
His wife Julie is a Republican state representative.
Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon issued a statement panning the announcement.
“In the least anticipated announcement since his last announcement, Brian Calley will try to convince the people of Michigan it's a good idea to let him continue the failed administration he and Rick Snyder started," Dillon said.
"That might easily qualify as the last thing our state needs right now if Bill Schuette wasn’t already in the race. Instead, the Republican primary is a choice between the ineffectual cheerleader of a failed Snyder administration and a glory hound attorney general whose political ambitions are his only priority."
Calley withdrew his support for Trump in October 2016 after an Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump made vulgar remarks about women.
Schuette, who initially chaired former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential campaign in Michigan, became an enthusiastic Trump supporter following his nomination.
Stu Sandler, a Republican consultant backing Trump, said: “It is terribly ironic that Brian Calley would announce his campaign for governor on the one-year anniversary of Michigan certifying Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 Presidential election.
"Fortunately for America, Michigan voters didn’t listen to Brian Calley when he called upon them to abandon Donald Trump," Sandler said.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, firstname.lastname@example.org or onTwitter @michpoligal. Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.