Top 5 possible GOP gubernatorial candidates for 2022


She’s been talked about for governor so often, it’s as if mentioning Macomb County Public Works Director Candice Miller’s name in any speculative gubernatorial list is a festive formality. Kind of like serving cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.

And yet Republicans acknowledge behind the scenes that the former secretary of state and member of Congress would be a field-clearing candidate. One political consultant described Miller as the R’s best option in 2018 “by a wide margin.” At that time, though, her husband was ill and she couldn’t dedicate the time to a run.

Former Macomb Judge Donald Miller died in January 2019. Will Candice Miller reconsider? Sources tell the Capitol news service MIRS she’s been approached, but will she want to leave her current gig?

Miller received more votes in Macomb County this election than anyone else on the ballot other than a non-contested Court of Appeals judge. Her 292,598 was more than Donald Trump (264,535) or John James (252,681).

Outside of Miller, the list of big names who can generate mainstream support isn’t as long as you might think.

An ultra-conservative like Sen. Patrick Colbeck is fairly likely. Already a Grand Rapids resident and U.S. Department of Defense specialist named Austin Chenge has announced and “constitutional patriot” Bob Scott have filed paperwork. Collecting at least 15,000 valid voter signatures will be the next hurdle.

Outside of Miller, the clear No. 1, the other folks on the Top 5 list are:

2. House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, has emerged as an articulate and politically savvy voice for the conservative right. He could theoretically unite the party — bringing together Donald Trump supporters with the traditional fiscal conservatives.

Chatfield is the best legislative fundraiser in modern Michigan history and without a close second. Will people return his calls, though, when he doesn’t have an office to run from? He’s term limited as of Dec. 31, of course.

3. Nobody knew Rick Snyder until he ran for governor. Just like the 10th District didn’t know Lisa McClain until she ran for Congress. The Republican Party loves their self-funded executives (preferably a woman) who can relate to the political winds of the times. Snyder tapped into fiscal security. McClain wrapped herself around Trump. John James embraced patriotism. Someone else can make personal liberties a theme and ride the wave.

4. Looking for a grassroots-type candidate? You may not find a better one than Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, a genuine article who espouses a common-sense message that cleanly cuts through political blabber. He’s developed a loyal Facebook following that routinely urges him to give a gubernatorial run a try. The longtime radio morning show host is as effective a communicator as you’re going to find. He’ll need to raise some money, though.

5. Redistricting victim. Nobody knows who is going to get cut out of their district after the independent redistricting commission redraws legislative and congressional lines next year. It’ll happen. It’s just a question of how many and if he or she’s political ambitions will be to try something local or risk a dice roll on a Romney Building office.

Not on the list:

1. U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden Twp., retired after three years of the stomach-churning “Me First” culture of Washington, D.C., Mitchell has some personal wealth, but it’s doubtful he’s willing to part with the tens of millions needed to challenge Whitmer.

2. If Ronna Romney McDaniel isn’t reelected to chair the Republican National Committee, she would struggle to shake her past as a hardcore partisan. Plus, 2012 showed us the Romney name has lost its mojo in Michigan.

3. There’s a lot of political beasts in Lansing, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey isn’t one of them. The founder of a Jackson-based engineering firm doesn’t navigate political roadblocks with the same skill as crafting sensible solutions to complex problems. Besides, he’s shown little interest in running.

4. John James? One loss is a singular event. Two losses are a coincidence. Three losses would be a trend.

(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at


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