LANSING – Bring on the running mates.
With the Nov. 6 matchup for governor set, Republican Bill Schuette and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer are soon expected to announce their choices for running mates, who would serve as lieutenant governor for the winning candidate.
On the GOP side, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and the state House Appropriations Chairwoman Rep. Laura Cox of Livonia are seen as front-runners, according to party insiders. Cox is now a Republican candidate for the state Senate in the 7th District, where she was unopposed in Tuesday's primary.
For the Democrats, potential running mates whose names have been floated are Garlin Gilchrist II, who ran a close race for Detroit city clerk in 2017; state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, and state Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, who finished third in a Tuesday primary for a state House seat.
Almost nobody casts their ballot for governor based on the running mate, but the choice can still have significance in providing geographic, gender or racial balance to a ticket.
The choice could be particularly important for Whitmer. Democrats face criticism this year for having no candidates for statewide positions who are African-American — a key party constituency.
Gregory said he has been vetted as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor, but hasn’t heard who Whitmer’s choice will be.
“It would be an honor, no question about it,” he said. “I spent so much time supporting her in the primary because I felt we needed a great candidate for the November general election, so I gave as much time as I could trying to convince people to support her.”
Neeley said he understands he's under consideration for the post as a way of helping to mobilize younger and minority voters.
"I know I would do a good job if everybody is ready for a bolder lieutenant governor — not a disciple — in a more inclusive administration," Neeley told the Free Press Wednesday.
Gilchrist could not immediately be reached.
On the Republican side, Miller, a former Michigan secretary of state and member of Congress who is from politically significant Macomb County, introduced Schuette at a pre-election rally in Clinton Township last Thursday.
“In our great state of Michigan, we have done remarkable things, but we have a long way to go," Miller said. "If we don’t pick the right person to lead us, it wouldn’t take much to have us moving backwards."
Miller, who did not return a phone message Wednesday, also said last week that she has "known Bill for a long time, and to have somebody with the experiences he has, we are very, very fortunate for that."
Cox said Wednesday she's flattered that her name has been mentioned, but the choice is one for Schuette alone to make.
"I am running for the state Senate and I'm going to keep my eye on that," Cox said.
"It's a good day for Republicans. I'm really proud of all the wins across the state, and I'm just excited to get to the general election."
Other Republican names that have been mentioned include Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton.
Schuitmaker is a Republican candidate for attorney general. Delegates to the Aug. 25 state Republican convention are expected to choose between her and House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt.
Schuitmaker said Wednesday she hasn't discussed the idea with anyone. She said she would prefer that her name not be mentioned as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor because she wants convention delegates to know "my single focus is to run for attorney general."
Johnson, who easily won a Republican primary Tuesday for a state Senate seat in the 14th District, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Asked Wednesday night about his choice for running mate, after a Michigan Republican unity rally in Grand Rapids, Schuette told reporters: "I can't tell you what her name is yet."
Some members of the party's right wing want Schuette to select Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, who finished third in Tuesday's primary for governor, with 13% of the vote. But a convention floor fight to try to force that, which would require a two-thirds vote of delegates, is seen as unlikely, even by proponents.
"I would personally be happy if he chose Colbeck," but it's really the nominee's choice to make, said Wes Nakagiri, a member of the Republican executive committee in Livingston County.
Colbeck said on the "Your Defending Fathers" radio program Wednesday with Republican Party activist "Trucker Randy" Bishop that he hasn't given the issue any thought yet.
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.