DETROIT — After 44 years in law enforcement and more than seven leading the department in Michigan’s largest city, Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced his retirement Monday, while rumors swirled about a potential run for governor in his near future.
When asked about campaign rumors during a press conference, Craig said he has “not made that decision,” but added, “I’m not ruling it out.”
The state GOP has been seeking a top-tier candidate with strong name-recognition and wider appeal to challenge Governor Whitmer in the 2022 election. Craig’s name has been floated around as a potential Republican candidate.
“Yes, I am a Republican. Many of you already knew that, some of my team knew it, but as a police chief I serve everyone,” Craig added.
While he answered the question about his party affiliation Monday, Craig dodged another when asked if he believed there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. A false claim purported by former President Trump and some Republican lawmakers in the days that followed.
“I’m not going to talk about politics today, there will be time in place for that, this is not today. I’m not going to render opinions on people who sit in office or sat in offices. I’m just not going to make any statements on that today,” Craig said.
Craig has made a name for himself, in part due to frequent appearances on Fox news, most recently on Saturday. His tough on crime and pro-law enforcement stances, gained the praise of former President Trump, who called Craig “terrific” in an interview with FOX 2 last September.
In fact, it's Craig's similarities to Trump’s style that could lend itself well in a GOP primary, according to experts.
“That kind of strong sense leadership, of being authentic, being unafraid of the media, being unafraid of the Democrats. I think that you can project that kind of leadership style on to James Craig the way he's handled himself as the chief of police on pretty big stage in Detroit,” says Harbor Strategic Public Affairs CEO John Sellek.
Sellek, a Republican strategist, says the idea of Craig as candidate has Republican leaders excited.
“I think a lot of GOP folks, all the way up to the top of the party, based on the quotes in the newspapers, are pretty excited about [Craig] entering right now as this outsider force with a strong reputation for leadership,” Sellek said.
That reputation alone won’t be enough in a long campaign, Sellek saying the election is as much a referendum on Governor Whitmer than anything else. And the chief will have to answer many questions before it gets to that point.
“He's going to get asked, where do you stand on President Trump? Tell us a little bit more about your party affiliation in your past, were you a Democrat or Republican? Did you vote? But then pretty soon it's going to be, how would you do things differently than Governor Whitmer?” Sellek explained.
There’s no doubt Craig will be the biggest name to enter the field if he chooses to do so, and his name could be big enough to garner widespread GOP support while keeping other "top-tier" candidates from throwing their hat in the ring.
“The GOP has been hungering for somebody to get behind because I think they see a floundering governor right now.” Sellek said. “She could turn it around, but she's floundering right now and they're like okay can we get our team on the field, can we get going?I think that's why, anecdotally, we've seen a ton of really positive reaction to Chief Craig.”
“I think he would make a fine candidate, should he choose to run,” Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser told the Detroit News last week.
Craig’s last day at the Detroit Police Department is June 1.