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Rinke says he won't attend Michigan GOP conference, claims 'bias'


Lansing — Republican Kevin Rinke, a Metro Detroit businessman who's weighing a campaign for governor, says he won't attend the Michigan GOP's upcoming leadership conference on Mackinac Island and there's "bias" within state party leadership.

Rinke of Bloomfield Township, whose family has owned and operated auto dealerships in the state, announced last week that he was forming an exploratory committee for governor.

On Tuesday, the same day former Detroit police chief James Craig formally launched his campaign for the GOP nomination, Rinke issued a statement, suggesting that Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser might be backing Craig, who has been working with political consultant John Yob, who's previously aided the chairman.

"Now that I am exploring a run for governor, I have seen firsthand the bias that exists within the Michigan Republican Party," Rinke said. "It appears that the chairman has already picked a favorite and is siding with his business partner’s candidate for governor."

The Michigan Republican Party's Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference is Sept. 24-26, with national GOP figures scheduled to be in attendance, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

"Since the process isn’t fair, I don’t see the value and have decided to skip the conference on Mackinac," Rinke said Tuesday. "Republican voters want an outsider who won’t put up with politics as usual, and that’s exactly what I plan on giving them.”

In May, before Craig announced his campaign, Weiser said the former chief "would make a fine candidate, should he choose to run." The chairman also appeared at the July event in Jackson County, where Craig gave his first political speech.

Michigan Republican Party officials have denied that the organization has taken sides in the primary contest. The winner of the GOP nomination in August 2022 will likely take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November 2022.

"The party has not and will not take a position in primary races, including the race for governor," said Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan GOP. "We would love to have all of our candidates on the Island to interact with our grassroots and take part in the discussion on how Republican policies can change our state for the better."

In an interview with The Detroit News last week, Rinke said Weiser has directed candidates to Yob. The situation is "not appropriate," he said.

Garrett Soldano, another Republican candidate for Michigan governor, is planning a rally for Sept. 25 as an alternative to the state GOP's traditional conference on Mackinac Island. He has also accused the Michigan GOP of attempting to "rig the primary" in favor of Craig.

Craig, Rinke and Soldano are among 10 Republican candidates who've either formed fundraising committees to seek the GOP nomination or are in the process of doing so.

cmauger@detroitnews.com