By Alan Resnick / Detroit
Here’s a riddle for you: what do a car salesman, chiropractor-fire walking instructor, real estate broker, media personality-actor in low-budget horror films, and a pastor have in common? They are competing to be the Republican nominee for governor in my home state of Michigan.
Ours is one of 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs this fall, 20 of which are currently occupied by Republicans and 16 by Democrats. And some of the nation’s candidates range from scary to downright frightening.
Take, for example, Dan Cox and Doug Mastriano.
Cox, a first-term state legislator, won the July 20th Maryland Republican primary for governor. The Baltimore Sun reports: “Cox attended the then-president’s January 6, 2021, rally in Washington before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Cox called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” for not overturning the results, but Cox said he did not go to the Capitol when the event attendees turned violent.” According to the Washington Post, Cox “vigorously fought against the certification of President Biden’s 2020 victory and Maryland’s coronavirus mitigation measures.”
But Cox pales in comparison to Mastriano, a retired Army colonel and two-term state senator. Politico reports that Mastriano “chartered buses to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, where he appears to have been part of a crowd that crossed barricades.” Mastriano opposes any exceptions to an abortion ban. He also believes the state legislature should have the power to appoint presidential electors and to “decertify” election machines. To put a cherry on top of the sundae, Mastriano is reported to have paid Gab, a social media platform frequented by the accused shooter in Pittsburgh’s 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, for “advertising services” for his campaign.
Unsurprisingly, both these chaps have been endorsed by, as MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace likes to put it, the disgraced, twice-impeached former president.
I’m not one to brag, but we’ve got some folks in the Great Lakes State that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Cox and Mastriano. As a starting point, none of our five candidates for the Republican nomination have ever held elected office. Why some voters see a total lack of government experience as a virtue is beyond my comprehension, after living through the terms of our former governor Rick Snyder and a president who hosted a reality television show and who filed bankruptcy multiple times.
Kevin Rinke owned three auto dealerships, so I suppose that could be considered good grounding for a career in politics. The first television ad I saw from Rinke had him posing next a zombie, and asking the question: “Why are the only dead people who vote Democrats?” He went on to promise “I'll audit the voter rolls and make sure there's no hint of cheating in Michigan elections. Join me, and let's lay voter fraud to rest.”
Of course, every voter fraud claim raised in Michigan over the 2020 election was found to be without merit. And when it was mentioned to him during a television interview that the Detroit Free Press had reported that in every case of dead voter fraud, the defendant was a registered Republican and/or an acknowledged Trump voter, Rinke claimed that his ad was meant to be humorous.
Regrettably, the interviewer failed to ask Rinke who would find his commercial amusing. Certainly not the viewers who believe The Big Lie. And certainly not the viewers who know better.
Rinke’s latest TV commercial is also a gem. In this ad, he pledges to end the state income tax on individuals and ban students who are biologically male from competing in public school sports for females. Please instant message me if you can explain how these two issues go together.
Rinke was also the defendant in two rather unseemly lawsuits from 1992, one involving the use of racial slurs in the workplace and the other involving sexually harassing employees, with the primary allegations coming from his secretary. In an interview with the Associated Press this month, Rinke called the allegations “blatantly false” but did acknowledge making payouts to the former employees, which he said was less costly than going to trial. Court records indicate that Rinke and the employees agreed to have the cases dismissed.
Zombies also play a role in the biography of another one of our state’s contenders, Tudor Dixon. Ms. Dixon spent 17 years in the steel industry in assorted sales roles and briefly hosted a show on Real America’s Voice. In case this channel is currently not on your favorites list, some of their programming includes Ted Nugent Spirit Campfire, Securing America, and Law and Border.
Ms. Dixon has attempted to differentiate herself from her competitors by focusing on the role parents should play in their children’s education. The Associated Press reports t she has suggested that public schools have become a hotbed of government-sponsored perversion, and has called for school administrators to be prosecuted if they allow children access to sexually explicit books.
While she has not formally been endorsed by Trump, her television commercials frequently contain a clip of him describing her as “a very popular, fantastic brilliant, candidate.” But Ms. Dixon has been endorsed by Dick Devos, patriarch of one of Michigan’s most powerful and wealthy Republican families. Mr. Devos’ wife, Betsy, was the Secretary of Education in the previous president’s administration.
Given her emphasis on family values, it’s no shock that Ms. Dixon has come under fire for acting in assorted low-budget horror movies little more than a decade ago. Who can forget Buddy BeBop vs. The Living Dead, in which she was eaten alive by zombies? This classic also contains a scene in which a zombie consumes the midsection of a pregnant woman. Another scene depicts a zombie biting off a man’s genitals. Word on the street is that Lin-Manual Miranda is in negotiations to turn this flick into a musical.
Garrett Soldano, age 43, describes himself as a “chiropractor, small business owner, author, public speaker, family man, proud Catholic, and former WMU (Western Michigan University) football player.” He modestly omits that he also has been a fire-walking instructor. It’s good to have a Renaissance man in the race.
Soldano created the Facebook group Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine. The Los Angeles Times reported that his site had approximately 380,000 members before Facebook shut it down amid a crackdown on the spread of misinformation and threats.
Soldano also gained national notoriety on February 1 when, on the right-wing podcast Face the Facts with April Moss, he argued that rape victims should not have abortions because that “little baby inside them might be the next president.” He’s also attempted to reach out to social conservatives by denigrating transgender rights and declaring that his preferred pronouns are “conservative, patriot.”
Prior to jumping into the gubernatorial race, Soldano hawked a supplement, Juice Plus. On July 8, the Los Angeles Times reported that Soldano “falsely claimed that Juice Plus could ‘dominate’ any virus, including COVID-19, and had the added benefit of giving him ‘great bowel movements’.”
After receiving a warning from the Federal Trade Commission about making false claims made by those selling the supplement, the multilevel marketing firm that sells the product has disavowed any claims that Juice Plus was an effective COVID-19 treatment. The FTC did not weigh in on bowel movements.
Mr. Soldano might want to add “grifter” to his list of preferred pronouns.
We Michiganders have the proud distinction of having the first person running for election in a major state or federal race to be charged in connection with the January 6 insurrection. Ryan Kelly, a real estate broker who has made The Big Lie the focus of his campaign, was arrested by the F.B.I. on June 9 and charged with four federal misdemeanor counts–committing violence against a person or property on restricted grounds, damaging federal property, disorderly conduct and entering a restricted building or grounds without permission.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges and, taking a page out of Trump’s playbook, claims that the date of his arrest was politically motivated to hurt his candidacy. An attempt by Progress Michigan, an organization that describes itself as “a media hub for the entire progressive community,” to have him disqualified for running was rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals on July 21.
Kelly’s website states that, if elected, Kelly will declare the pandemic over on his first day in office. Just think of all the wonderful things he can do for our state during the remainder of his first week as governor. He can pronounce Flint’s contaminated water crisis over on Day 2. Crumbling roads and bridges can be declared repaired on Day 3. Kelly can announce that Michigan’s public education system is now best in the nation on Day 4. Detroit’s automobile insurance rates can move from highest to lowest in the nation on Day 5. And regional transportation issues will be alleviated on Day 6. Let’s give him the seventh day to rest.
But, Rinke, Dixon, Soldano, and Kelly are mere bleeding hearts and snowflakes when compared to Ralph Rebandt, who recently retired after serving for 35 years at a church in Farmington Hills, the city where I live. When asked by the Detroit Free Press about his top three priorities as governor, Rebandt responded: “First would be bringing God back into culture and bringing back Judeo-Christian principles. My second thing would be bringing back our Judeo-Christian principles, and my third thing would be bringing back our Judeo-Christian principles."
Rebandt believes ‘the Bible should be the chief or primary textbook in the school system." He has the most restrictive view on abortion of any candidate in the primary field. Rebandt believes there should be no exceptions for the procedure, and if the mother would certainly die from something like an ectopic pregnancy, doctors should try to save the life both the mother and child.
He has pledged not to meet alone with any woman who is not his wife. If elected governor and a woman is selected for a cabinet post, Rebandt has said that he would not meet with her alone either. Mike Pence and mother must be pleased.
Rebandt says that it’s not that he doesn't trust himself, but rather out of concern about someone making a false allegation of impropriety. The Detroit Free Press asked him if it would be discriminatory if male cabinet members could get his ear at a private meeting but female members could not. "There's a legitimacy in raising that," Rebandt said, without offering any further elaboration.
He’s also indicated that he would use soldiers to stop undocumented immigrants from entering our state: “Many people do not realize that Michigan has been used as a drop off site for those entering illegally from Mexico,” Rebandt said in one section of a position paper. “Therefore, I will place the Michigan National Guard on every major highway entering Michigan, and other locations of interest, to stop the entrance of illegal immigrants to Michigan.” Lastly, Rebandt has been endorsed by the My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell.
I wish I had something snarky or witty to add here, but all I’ve got is “Yikes.” Blessedly, Rebandt has polled at only between 1% and 2% among Republican voters. The remaining four candidates are in a statistical dead heat according to a July 13 – 15 survey. Some 38% of the poll respondents remain undecided.
I used to take pride in the notion that, in America, “Anyone can grow up to President.” But the past six years and our upcoming election for governor have got me rethinking that position.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.