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Republican businessman Perry Johnson joining race for Michigan governor


Lansing — Perry Johnson, a businessman from Bloomfield Hills and self-described "quality guru," is joining the crowded race to be the Republican nominee for Michigan governor.

In a statement Thursday, Johnson, 74, founder of the Perry Johnson Companies Group, said he's filing the required paperwork that will allow him to raise and spend money on his campaign and plans to announce his candidacy formally in February.

"Michiganders deserve better, demand better and with an emphasis on quality, would have a much better government," Johnson said.

His candidacy would add to the August primary contest another GOP contender who is a political outsider and can use his personal wealth to boost his chances, a potentially beneficial trait in a field of Republicans who aren't well known across Michigan.

His businesses include Perry Johnson Registrars, Inc., which operates in the certification and registration industry, according to its website. The firm has a staff of over 250 auditors, averaging 15 years of auditing experience and 18 years of experience in the quality industry, the website says.

Johnson is "one of the world’s foremost authorities in quality," the website adds. His Twitter handle describes himself as a "quality guru."

His entry into the race came a day after Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her fourth State of the State address. Johnson said the speech "completely ignored the horrendous quality that taxpayers receive for their money from state government."

"Proper statistical methods and transparency" might have prevented $8 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims in Michigan and the Benton Harbor water crisis and might have kept schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

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Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, according to his website.

Eleven other Republicans have formed candidate committees to seek the GOP nomination for governor. Voters will choose a nominee in the August primary election. The winner will take on Whitmer, who's seeking a second four-year term in November.

The other GOP contenders include former Detroit police Chief James Craig, conservative commentator and businesswoman Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores, chiropractor and activist Garrett Soldano of Mattawan and businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township.

John Yob, a well-known Republican political consultant who previously helped with Craig's campaign, is working with Johnson. 

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, provided a positive comment about Johnson on Thursday.

"I am neutral in the primary, but if you searched the country for the best expert to hire to make dramatic improvement in quality in state government, the perfect person you would come up with is Perry Johnson," Wentworth said.

More: Finley: Another outsider joins GOP race

Johnson was featured at last fall's Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island.

Rinke's family is known for its car dealerships in Metro Detroit. He has said he plans to give his own campaign $10 million.

Rodericka Applewhaite, spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party, slammed Johnson.

"Perry Johnson’s entry into the Republican gubernatorial race brings the clown car count back up to 12 and doubles the amount of out-of-touch millionaires trying to buy their way through this crowded and messy primary," Applewhaite said Thursday.

cmauger@detroitnews.com