Stuck With Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan Dems Get Desperate

It's the “the worst-kept secret in town."

Growing concerns from Michigan Democrats over Gretchen Whitmer’s candidacy are becoming increasingly apparent with new reports of a “backdoor” campaign to find just about anyone else for the state’s upcoming governor’s race. Bridge Magazine reports that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who himself refused to enter the race, has been leading efforts along with union leaders to recruit alternative Democrat candidates to Whitmer, reaching out to Senator Gary Peters and other prominent party leaders, all of whom have thus far refused to join.

Bridge describes the Democrat recruiting campaign as the “the worst-kept secret in town” and that it “highlights growing concern among Democrats with Whitmer.” With Democrats still desperately searching for someone else to lead their party’s ticket in November, Whitmer continues to struggle to unify her party, hurting her chances in the general election.

Bridge Magazine has more

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and union allies are trying to woo another Democrat to campaign for Michigan governor amid concerns about the viability of front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, Bridge Magazine has learned.

This month, Duggan reached out to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, Bridge learned from six sources with knowledge of the effort, including three party officials. In a January meeting described by one observer as a ‘full court press,’ Duggan, United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, other union leaders, and powerful Detroit pastor the Rev. Wendell Anthony tried to persuade Peters to enter the campaign, promising substantial help with fundraising, the sources said.

Peters turned them down. It’s the latest in a series of backdoor overtures to recruit another Democrat into the race. Separately, sources also confirmed to Bridge on Monday that U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, was approached within the past 10 days by Democratic operatives in southeast Michigan about entering the race.

‘People do, from time to time, try to get me to change my mind,’ Kildee told Bridge on Monday. ‘But that’s not going to happen. I’m full-steam ahead doing what I’m doing in Congress.’

Kildee declined further comment. Peters, a first-term U.S Senator, issued a statement late Monday through his communications director that did not specifically address his recruitment for the governor’s race.

‘Senator Peters is focused on his job as a United States Senator for the people of Michigan and will not be running for Governor,’ Amber Moon, his spokeswoman, said in an email…

The existence of the recruiting campaign, described by one as ‘the worst-kept secret in town,’ highlights growing concern among Democrats with Whitmer, and  shifting currents within the state party less than 10 months before the election. Last year, a string of high-profile Democrats opted out of the race for governor, hoping the party would unite around Whitmer of East Lansing, the state’s former Senate minority leader.

Since last year, however, anxiety has increased about her campaign momentum, fundraising and name recognition, particularly in southeast Michigan, which is home to about half the state’s voters.

‘The bottom line is, because of polling numbers, Gretchen is (perceived as) not very strong in southeast Michigan, and the fear is if you can’t win in Macomb County or Detroit, you can’t win,’ said pollster Ed Sarpolus, executive director of the Target-Insyght firm in Lansing.

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