Another Republican is about to jump into the Michigan Senate race

Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig will enter the race for Michigan’s open Senate seat in the first week of October, setting the stage for a messy Republican primary in a state that’s already tough territory for the GOP.

Craig has been inching closer to a run for months but he is nearly ready to launch, according to two people familiar with his plans who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them. His decision will come as unwelcome — though not unsurprising — news to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has been trying to whittle down the GOP field. The committee recruited former Rep. Mike Rogers, who launched a run earlier this month.

Democrats have largely coalesced around Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who mounted a campaign shortly after Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced her retirement. Actor Hill Harper is also running.

For months, Republicans had no strong candidate in the race. Now they are facing the prospect of a crowded field. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost a primary in 2022 after voting to impeach Donald Trump, is exploring a run. Business executive Sandy Pensler is also mulling a bid. The NRSC did get good news last week, however, when another prospective candidate, John Tuttle, bowed out.

Craig has already lined up a campaign team. Augie Atencio will serve as his campaign manager and Caroline Wren, a well-known GOP fundraiser, will serve as a senior adviser. Jesse Ranney will work on communications.

Craig has positioned himself in the Trump lane and endorsed the former president earlier this year.

He will likely hit Rogers on his past statements critical of Trump. Rogers wrote as recently as last November that it was time for his party to move on from the former president. The Craig team also could target Rogers’ over his record on privacy rights that he developed as the longtime chair of the House Intel Committee.

Republicans have not won a Senate race in Michigan since 1994. And Democrats have been ascendant in the state, controlling both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Craig was born in Detroit and served as police chief in Cincinnati and Portland, Maine. In 2022, he ran for governor against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer but lost out on a spot on the ballot after a botched signature-gathering effort. Craig, a former United Auto Workers member who worked in a Chrysler plant out of high school, has been a vocal supporter of the union’s ongoing strike.

His decision to run comes shortly after The Messenger reported that Craig said he received a call from a potential top consultant encouraging him to stay out of the race. Craig and a top aide said that consultant, Katie Walsh Shields, offered financial incentives to keep the field clear. Shields strongly denies that account.