Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer's "bad leadership" on the economy has "decimated" the state's small business environment, a Detroit businessman who launched a campaign to unseat the Democrat said.
"The small business climate in Michigan has been decimated. The governor chose winners and losers, and she supported national corporations over the people of Michigan when she did her lockdowns," Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke told the Washington Free Beacon. "Small businesses continue to struggle to ramp back up. … They need employers, and their structure has been altered dramatically because of the governor's subsidization of unemployment."
Rinke, a former auto dealership owner, announced his own Republican gubernatorial campaign Monday, pledging to "put an end to Governor Whitmer's assault on our values and our way of life" in 2022. He has already centered his campaign on the economy, education, and law and order—a strategy that mirrors the GOP playbook in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin delivered a shock upset over Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe.
Whitmer faced bipartisan criticism during the onset of the pandemic over her lockdown orders, which shuttered many small businesses but allowed big-box corporations to remain open. Roughly one year later, the Democrat vetoed a Republican proposal to end President Joe Biden's enhanced federal unemployment benefits early as employers faced a widespread labor shortage. Michigan has since recovered its lost jobs at a lower rate than 17 GOP-led states that cut the benefits months ahead of Biden's September expiration date, according to Labor Department data released in October.
"Michigan needs to provide better for its people," Rinke said. "The governor isn't doing that."
Whitmer did not return a request for comment.
In addition to Whitmer's pandemic-related economic policies, Rinke lambasted the governor for her ongoing effort to shut down Line 5, a major pipeline that runs through Michigan and transports up to 540,000 barrels of oil, natural gas, and propane per day. Roughly 88 percent of Michigan households use propane and natural gas to heat their homes, and both energy sources have experienced sharp rises in price under the Biden administration. For Rinke, there is "no question" Whitmer's anti-pipeline activism would exacerbate the problem.
"If you go north of Midland, people rely on propane gas to heat their homes, and Michigan winters are severe. You've got inflation for gasoline, you have inflation for food," Rinke told the Free Beacon. "How does that help the people of Michigan, shutting down the number one source of gas? What does it do to their lifestyle?"
While Rinke is happy to talk about Whitmer, he plans to put his money where his mouth is. The Republican has pledged to spend $10 million of his own money on the race and paired his campaign announcement with a six-figure ad buy. "We're talking about knocking off the number three person in the Democratic Party," Rinke said. "This is going to be a very expensive primary and general election."
Rinke enters a crowded GOP field in his bid to challenge Whitmer. Other Republican candidates include former Detroit Police Department head James Craig and Michigan State Police captain Mike Brown.