Home » GOP frontrunner’s campaign for Senate in Michigan in chaos as another failed candidate mulls race

GOP frontrunner’s campaign for Senate in Michigan in chaos as another failed candidate mulls race

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig parted ways with both his campaign manager and deputy manager just 17 days after announcing he’d seek the Republican nomination for Michigan’s open Senate seat, reports the Messenger.

“I resigned due to differing opinions on the strategic direction of the campaign,” said Craig’s now-former campaign manager, August Atencio. But Craig adviser Ted Goodman pushed back, arguing that “this is a non-story being pushed by our political opponents.”

The “non-story,” though, may feel uncomfortably familiar to Craig fans who remember his disastrous 2022 campaign for governor. The former police chief’s previous effort went through several major staff shake-ups, including the departure of two different campaign managers in less than four months and the resignation of chief adviser John Yob.

During that race, the Detroit News reported that Craig had brought on two co-managers in March, a month before the candidate filing deadline. Yob responded with a snarky tweet declaring, “The nice thing about appointing co-campaign managers is that when the third one quits, there might still be a fourth one.”

But Yob, who had already switched to working for wealthy businessman Perry Johnson’s rival effort, wasn’t quite able to fully enjoy what happened next to his former client. Election authorities disqualified Craig, Johnson, and three other contenders from the ballot after they fell victim to a huge fraudulent-signature scandal and failed to turn in enough valid petitions. Craig insisted on forging ahead with a write-in campaign that ultimately won just 2% of the vote, while Johnson decided to turn his attention to running for president. (Yob, who has since gone back to praising Craig on social media, signed on to Johnson’s White House campaign.)

It’s possible, however, that primary voters will get to see both Craig’s and Johnson’s names on their Senate ballot next year. The latter declared Friday that he was suspending his presidential campaign after barely registering in the polls and failing to qualify for any debates, though his name will remain on the ballot in New Hampshire and other early primary states.

And there may be a backup plan in the works. Johnson, who self-funded at least $8.4 million, told NBC last month that he might refocus his efforts on a bid to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, though he’s now sending mixed messages about his interest in that idea.

A spokesperson for Johnson responded to the network’s questions about a Senate run by saying, “Perry hasn’t ruled anything out.” Johnson, however, doesn’t seem to have quite abandoned his White House dreams, as he said Friday he’d keep a small number of people on staff “in the event the dynamics of the race change.”

Craig will face intraparty opposition no matter what Johnson does, though his main competitor still has a lot to prove. Former Rep. Mike Rogers launched his campaign in early September, but a recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Craig beating the NRSC’s preferred recruit 30-19.

It also remains to be seen whether Rogers will have the money to run a serious effort. The candidate raised just $810,000 during the third quarter and finished September with $790,000 in the bank, though his campaign highlighted that his haul came after only 24 days on the trail. Craig, for his part, launched his bid after the fourth quarter began, so we’ll need to wait until the end of January to get our first look at his financial strength.

The GOP field also includes state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, but she ended last month with all of $90,000 on hand after yet another weak fundraising quarter. Former Rep. Peter Meijer also set up an exploratory committee in late August, but he has yet to report any fundraising numbers.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin continues to hold a huge financial edge over her many opponents. Actor Hill Harper attracted a good deal of attention when he entered the race in early July, but he raised only $560,000 from donors during his opening quarter and self-funded another $460,000. Slotkin, for her part, hauled in $3 million, and she finished September with a huge $5.2 million to $420,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Hill. A third Democrat, former American Arab Chamber of Commerce leader Nasser Beydoun, had a mere $100,000 in the bank, while the rest of the field lags even further behind.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled James Craig’s name and misstated Ted Goodman’s role on both his campaigns.

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October 2023