Republicans split from party, form coalition to "help elect Whitmer" as Michigan governor

Democratic candidate for governor Gretchen Whitmer, left, and Republican candidate for governor Bill Schuette, right, will face off in November. (WWMT)

The race for the Michigan governor's office has been heated since before the August primary, and now, support is mounting for the Democratic candidate from the other side of the aisle.

The Gretchen Whitmer Campaign announced Thursday that a group of Republican leaders and other, independent voices have come together to form a group they're calling “Republicans and Independents for Whitmer.” The Whitmer campaign, in a written statement, said the group will help elect her as the next governor.

“I think the choice is pretty clear: Do you want someone who just gives you partisan, political talking points or do you want someone who can get things done,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said.

Among the coalitions’ members are those who served in the cabinets and as administrators under GOP Govs. Rick Snyder, John Engler and Bill Milliken.

Former state Rep. Mel Larse, R–Oakland County, co-author of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, also is on board with this coalition. So is Jim Haveman, who served as director of the Michigan Department of Community Health during the Engler and Snyder administrations.

“Now more than ever, Michigan needs a governor who knows how to put partisanship aside to get things done,” Haveman said.

On the flip side, the campaign for Whitmer’s Republican opponent is sounding the alarm. Bill Schuette campaign spokesperson Stu Sandler said the people who are supporting Whitmer aren’t Republicans in the first place.

“These are the same people who have been endorsing Democrats for years,” Sandler said.

Some people in this new group, particularly Vivian Carpenter, who served as deputy state treasurer under former Gov. Milliken, are part of the “Lansing establishment making a circle around Gretchen Whitmer," Sandler said.

He also said that Whitmer's father, Richard Whitmer, was a leader within the Milliken Administration.

“Richard Whitmer has been part of the Lansing establishment forever,” Sandler said, citing another reason why he believes the group members are supporting Whitmer.

As for Whitmer, she said her family tree has nothing to do with the latest support.

“That is ridiculous, these are people that have incredible integrity, and longtime public servants who were on Schuette’s side of the aisle and who now know he’s not the kind of leader that’s going to put us in a place where our kids stay and our families can get ahead,” Whitmer said.

Other Republicans in the state have denounced the group. State Sen. Mike Shirkey and Rep. Lee Chatfield released a joint statement, saying in part, “By abandoning our party, they are working to tear down not only Bill Schuette and the top of the ticket, but to end the Republican majorities in the House and Senate that have gotten the job done and have been the driving force behind Michigan’s economic comeback. We stand with Bill Schuette and the Republican ticket that will lead us to victory in November.”

State GOP Chairman Ron Weiser called the group's announcement a reaction to the work of Schuette during his role as Michigan’s Attorney General.

“Leaders make the tough calls. You anger some people along the way, even in your own party," Weiser said via a written statement. "Bill leads. This coalition is not about passion for the candidacy of Gretchen Whitmer. This is anger at Schuette for stepping up, leading and making tough decisions even when they are politically difficult."

According to the Schuette campaign, those tough calls stem from the Flint Water investigations, Larry Nassar prosecutions and Ingham County corruption probes he completed while attorney general.

Whitmer said Schuette “shows up when there are cameras” and decides to prosecute when it’s beneficial to him.

Members of the group supporting Whitmer are:

  • Former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, R–Battle Creek
  • Jim Haveman, former director of the Michigan Department of Community Health under John Engler and Rick Snyder
  • Richard McLellan, former transition director to then Gov.-elect John Engler
  • Vivian Carpenter, former deputy state treasurer under Gov. Bill Milliken
  • Trish Foster, retired senior managing director and COO at CBRE-Martin
  • Former Rep. Mel Larsen, R-Oakland County
  • Mary McLellan, retired Department of Civil Rights employee
  • Bill Milliken Jr., real estate broker at Milliken Realty
  • Rod Nelson, retired CEO of Mackinac Straits Health System
  • John Pirich, partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn
  • Dennis Smith, retired CEO of the UP Health Plan
  • Paul Tarr, president of PM Tarr and Associates
  • Gina Yob, vice president of sales and marketing for 3S International LLC
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