Politics

The Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate Who Was Just Arrested for Rioting on Jan. 6 Leads Primary Polls

For some voters, it’s a big plus!

Kelley, wearing black sunglasses and a backward hat, makes a "come this way" gesture with two hands against a backdrop of other Jan. 6 rioters and white sheets over scaffolding.
According to the Department of Justice, this is Michigan’s leading Republican candidate for governor. Jim Urquhart/Reuters

It’s been a fun series of recent events in Michigan:

• In late May, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, James Craig, a former Detroit police chief who is billed as being “tough on crime,” was disqualified from being on the primary ballot because thousands of signatures on his nominating petition were determined to be fraudulent. (A number of other candidates were also found to have submitted fake signatures.)

• Craig, who is apparently not tough on James Craig crime, says he is not responsible for the problems with his petition and is pursuing a write-in campaign.

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• With Craig off the ballot, if not out of the race, a relatively unknown candidate named Ryan Kelley took the lead in the polls. Kelley, a real estate agent, had previously made news for leading protests against COVID-related restrictions and for telling an audience of Republicans that they should unplug voting machines if they ever suspect Democrats are using them to commit fraud. (NPR reports that, in addition to being illegal, this wouldn’t actually stop voting machines from working, because they have backup battery power.)

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• Then, on June 9, federal agents arrested Kelley and charged him with four crimes related to participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. A document filed by the Department of Justice alleges that Kelley was part of a group that pushed past police officers at an outdoor barricade, and that Kelley then stood on a ledge and encouraged the crowd behind him to rush toward the building. (See above photo for evidence of this claim. Kelley is not accused of personally having any physical contact with police.)

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• On Thursday, a Detroit Free Press poll that was conducted after Kelley’s arrest found that he is … hmm … yes, still leading the primary field, with 17 percent support. Kelley, the Freep says, “also had the highest total favorability and name recognition among Republican gubernatorial contenders.” The paper found at least one Michigan man for whom the accusations even add to Kelley’s appeal:

Jim Flarity, of Lenawee County, said he was already leaning toward supporting Kelley in the primary, but the FBI arrest cemented his decision to vote for Kelley come August.

“The number one reason is he was arrested by the FBI,” Flarity told the Free Press. “I had my own issues with the FBI about the Jan. 6 incident, even though I wasn’t there.” He said he lost access to his Facebook profile due to posts made on the website with which the FBI took issue.

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The FBI being on your ass: Very relatable for Jim Flarity!

The candidate running in second in the new poll is a “Kalamazoo-area chiropractor” named Garrett Soldano who has a campaign ad in which he says he will take on the “woke groomer mafia.” (Background on the “groomer” component of that construction can be found here.)

If either of these men win the primary, they will face off against incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who, it should be noted, has wide polling leads over all the potential Republican candidates in the race. While those leads would be expected to tighten as the GOP electorate consolidates around a nominee, Whitmer is also notably more popular in her state than Joe Biden. In any case, primary Election Day isn’t until Aug. 2—there’s still plenty of time left for additional crimes to shake up the race.

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