LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican Kevin Rinke, a former owner of Detroit-area car dealerships, launched his campaign for Michigan governor on Monday with self-funded TV and digital ads that tout him as a conservative outsider and criticize Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Rinke, who had been exploring a bid for months, said he is prepared to spend at least $10 million, entering a crowded GOP primary of untested political newcomers. He once owned Rinke Automotive Group; his grandfather started one of the state's first General Motors franchises more than a century ago.
Rinke, 60, of Bloomfield Hills, later helmed and expanded a brain injury rehab group and an autism therapy provider. Most recently, he has been a private investor aiming to turn around companies, according to his campaign.
Voters “want a leader to put at end to Gov. Whitmer's assault on our values and our way of life," he said in a statement. “I'm fighting for their kids, their jobs and their future, and I won't back down."
The ads, which cost six figures to air, show Rinke driving a 1969 Pontiac GTO muscle car. He compares the Democratic governor to a Yugo, a much-maligned compact car from the former, communist-run Yugoslavia.
Rinke decries “a tyrannical government, closed small businesses, illegal immigration, voter fraud, critical race theory.”
He is the 12th Republican in a field that includes former Detroit police chief James Craig, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and ex-online news host Tudor Dixon.
Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson Rodericka Applewhaite said Rinke's entry into the race further complicates a “messy, divisive, unsettled primary.”
“Though he plans to set himself apart by trying to buy this election, he stands with the rest of the field in his extreme views and his sole focus on relitigating an election that happened over a year ago over issues that matter to Michigan families," she said. ”Michiganders deserve a governor that’s actually going to fight for working families and the issues they care about, like the recently signed infrastructure law that will invest in fixing local roads and create good-paying jobs.”
Whitmer is seen as vulnerable in a midterm election that typically favors the party opposite the president. While no first-term governor has lost in nearly 60 years, she will be the first incumbent to seek reelection at the same time her party controls the White House in 48 years.
Whitmer, whose profile grew nationally in the pandemic, had more than $12.6 million in her campaign account as of October, more than all of the GOP candidates combined.
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