Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was on track to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination this year before being derailed by a forged-signature scandal, says he does not support Republican nominee Tudor Dixon and never considered becoming her running mate, despite numerous inquiries. He also criticizes her abortion policies.
“I didn’t think she was a good candidate then,” he says, referring to when he competed against her this spring, during a lengthy interview with Hour Detroit for an upcoming profile. “She’s got a couple of endorsements that gave her the lead, but if I had been able to stay in it, I would have been the nominee. … At this point, I’m not supporting Tudor Dixon and I’m not supporting Governor Whitmer.”
Craig was, indeed, the persistent poll leader in the crowded GOP primary field until May, when he was kept from the August ballot after scrutiny of the 21,735 signatures his campaign submitted. Some 7,000 of the signatures were fraudulent, duplicate, or unqualified to appear on the petition. Eliminating those left Craig short of the required number of valid signatures.
Craig, 66, who retired in June 2021 after 44 years as a police officer and eight as Detroit police chief so he could run for governor, led the primary field with 31 percent support from likely GOP voters as of an April 2022 survey by McLaughlin & Associates. At the time, self-funded Kalamazoo chiropractor Garrett Soldano was the only other candidate in double digits; Dixon garnered just 3 percent in that poll.
Dixon’s leap to the nomination began as five of the 10 declared candidates, including Craig, were removed from the ballot because of signature problems now attributed to alleged fraud committed by a signature-gathering firm. In late May, Dixon received the endorsement from the powerful DeVos family, and days before the primary she also received the much-coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump. The 45-year-old Norton Shores businesswoman and first-time candidate went on to a landslide victory on Aug. 2, taking 40.6 percent in a five-way primary and finishing 19 points ahead of the second-place finisher, automotive executive Kevin Rinke from Oakland County.
Craig ran in the GOP primary as a write-in candidate, but his vote total was so negligible he says he doesn’t even know how many he received. He turned down Rinke’s requests for an endorsement, Craig says. “He said, ‘Well, I hate to tell you this, but you’re not going to do so well,’ and I said, ‘I appreciate you saying that, but whether you know it or not, I am a write-in and me endorsing you would be me giving up and I can’t,” Craig recalled of a chat with Rinke. “He didn’t like my response.”
Craig remains angry about how his campaign ended and says he believes Dixon’s campaign had a hand in it. Michigan Strong PAC, a conservative group supporting Dixon, filed one of the two challenges to his signatures that prompted the inspections. “Whether she knew or didn’t know, that was her campaign that had some knowledge of something going on, and so there were shenanigans involved,” he says. “What, I just don’t know yet. And I’m hoping I get to the truth.”
Dixon, in an email statement sent late Monday, says: “My door will always be open for Chief Craig. I would welcome his input on Detroit, policing, and many other subjects. And, I would be glad to have his support if he changes his mind.”
The campaign trail has not been kind to Dixon thus far, most notably because she’s been mired in discussions about her rigid anti-abortion policies. In a mid-July interview with journalist Charlie LeDuff, Dixon rejected the prospect of allowing a 14-year-old incest victim the option to terminate her pregnancy and last week she told Fox 2 Detroit’s Roop Raj that she believes that victim could find “healing through that baby.”
She trails Whitmer by 12 points in the most recent poll, and Craig believes that’s because her abortion views are alienating independent voters. He is also opposed to abortion, he says, but believes the parents of a minor rape victim should be able to make the decision for their family. He also broke with her on other aspects of the issue.
“How can you say no exceptions, and this is ludicrous to me, when a doctor opines that if you give birth, you will die or the child?” he says. “Who am I to usurp the opinion of a medical professional? Frankly, I’ve never been a doctor.”
On Friday, Dixon announced she had chosen former two-term state Rep. Shane Hernandez of Port Huron as her lieutenant governor candidate, pending approval of that pick by delegates at the Michigan Republican Party nominating convention on Aug. 27 in Lansing.
Craig’s name was bandied about as a possibility, but he says he would never have accepted the gig.
“I have had more calls than I care to admit, and I’ve told each and every one of them, ‘Why would I agree to be a running mate to a candidate who I feel strongly is not a No. 1 candidate?’” he says. “I did put out early in my campaign that I would consider Tudor Dixon to be my running mate. But me as No. 2 to a candidate I don’t feel is on the same level? No, it’s not even an option for me.”