Former Detroit Police Chief Launches Senate Campaign

James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

October 4, 2023

The field of Republican candidates running for a chance to take retiring US Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s seat in the US Senate is starting to get crowded ahead of next year’s primary election. 

LANSING—Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was a leading Republican candidate for governor in Michigan last year before fraudulent signatures on his paperwork derailed his campaign, has announced a campaign for Michigan’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in the US Senate.

On social media, Craig announced that he’s joining a growing field of GOP candidates trying to flip a seat that’s remained in Democratic control under US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) for over two decades. Stabenow announced in January that she wouldn’t seek re-election.

“American People want a return to Law and Order. And that’s exactly what they’re going to get. I am officially running for United States Senate,” Craig said in the post announcing his candidacy.

Former US Rep. Mike Rogers announced a bid less than a month ago and several others, including former US Rep. Peter Meijer, are still considering their own campaigns. Third-term US Rep. Elissa Slotkin leads a field of Democrats also vying to replace Stabenow.

READ MORE: 5 Things to Know: Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin Runs for US Senate

Michigan has long been considered a swing state where Republicans have had success in the past, but the party has not won a US Senate race in Michigan since 1994. Craig is positioning himself to win the support of former President Donald Trump, who has often swung Republican primaries with his endorsement. Both Rogers and Meijer have been critical of Trump in the past.

Craig has no prior experience in elected office. He spent eight years as the police chief of Michigan’s largest city before retiring in 2021 to pursue a run for governor. At one point, he was considered a favorite to win the GOP nomination last year—before he and four other candidates were kept off the ballot after fraudulent signatures were found on their nominating petitions.

Three people have been charged with forgery and other crimes related to the phony petition signatures, but no candidates were accused of knowingly submitting fraudulent petitions.

On the campaign trail last year, Craig also said that he stood with the anti-vaccine protesters and truckers who illegally blocked the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, which wreaked havoc on the economy and led to millions of dollars in lost wages for Michigan’s auto workers. 

At the time, Craig blamed the protesters’ illegal actions on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, President Joe Biden, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In reality, both Whitmer and the White House had made clear they supported individuals’ right to protest—but not the illegal blockade.

While other Michigan Republicans—including fellow gubernatorial candidates Garrett Soldano and Tudor Dixon—also expressed support for the illegal blockade, Craig’s statement drew an especially sharp rebuke from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, who said Craig’s statement was “abhorrent” considering he previously served in law enforcement.

Craig has said that he’s “pro-life,” but wouldn’t support federal legislation to limit abortion access. He has also declined to say whether he believes false claims by former President Donald Trump that there was fraud in the 2020 election.

READ MORE: Craig Sides With Canadian Anti-Vaxxers Over Michigan Auto Workers

Who else is running?

On the Republican side of the ticket, Craig is running against Rogers and six other Republicans: Board of Education Member Nikki Snyder; Former Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott; Attorney Alexandria Taylor; former congressional candidate Sherry O’Donnell; businessman J.D. Wilson; and former Dow Chemical Co. executive Michael Hoover. Meijer reportedly formed an exploratory committee to consider a Senate, but has not officially filed to run for the seat.

In addition to Slotkin, five other Democrats are also running for the seat: former state Rep. Leslie Love; Actor Hill Harper; Board of Education President Pamela Pugh; attorney Zach Burns; and businessman Nasser Beydoun. The primary election will be on Aug. 6, 2024. 

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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