Detroit chamber limits field for Michigan GOP gubernatorial debate in June on MackinacMay 16, 2022
May 12, 2022
Only five of the 10 declared Republican candidates for governor were invited to participate in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s primary debate, slated for early June at the organization’s annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.
The chamber ultimately did not invite either of the two women running for the party’s nomination to participate in the debate, instead opting to go by the most well-known and supported candidates among recently surveyed Republican primary voters.
Candidates James Craig, Perry Johnson, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano made the cut, according to a news release. But that means Tudor Dixon, Michael Brown, Donna Brandenburg, Ralph Rebandt, and Michael Markey won’t be onstage with their competitors.
“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in a statement. “We look forward to the candidates for governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”
Every candidate invited to participate in the debate received at least 5% support in a recent poll conducted for the chamber. The remaining candidates were invited to the conference, but not to take part in the debate.
The chamber indicated it may change the debate lineup if a candidate drops out, is disqualified from the ballot, or if “new, public, independent polling” shows additional competitive candidates.
The chamber worked with the Michigan Republican Party to set its debate lineup based on a poll it commissioned. The party and chamber agreed to the questions in the poll and additional metrics used to set the debate field, according to the chamber’s announcement.
The poll was conducted by the Glengariff Group and surveyed 500 likely Republican primary voters between April 29 and May 1. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Although almost 45% of those surveyed said they were undecided, former Detroit police chief Craig garnered the most support of those with a preferred candidate at 23%.
Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor who has frequently come in second in Republican primary polls, earned 8.2% support. Bloomfield Hills businessman Rinke received 5.6%, Ottawa County realtor Kelley notched 5.4%, and Oakland County businessman Johnson obtained 5.2%.
No other candidate earned more than 5% in the poll.
The field is far from settled ahead of the Aug. 2 primary, but overcoming a substantial polling deficit at this point in the race could prove difficult. Dixon polled at less than 2%, despite being the only gubernatorial candidate named by former President Donald Trump during a recent visit to the state
Dixon earned the only praise among gubernatorial candidates when former President Donald Trump recently visited the state. But almost 43% of those surveyed said Trump’s endorsement was not important in helping them decide their preferred candidate, despite 81% saying they had a favorable opinion of the previous president.
The news comes the same day Republican candidates were set to square off in the first primary debate of the campaign season, hosted in Livingston County.
Craig, Johnson, and Dixon all face challenges to the signatures collected by their campaigns to place their names on the primary ballot. In Michigan, gubernatorial candidates must submit nominating petitions with at least 15,000 signatures, but there are questions about the veracity of thousands obtained by the Craig and Johnson campaigns and an incorrect date that appeared on Dixon’s nominating petitions.
The chamber’s debate is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on June 2.