The Political Hunger Games: 20 vie to replace Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

LANSING — This year’s race for Michigan governor sort of reads like a page out of  The Hunger Games with 20 diverse candidates from multiple parties competing for the brass ring that will place them in the highest executive office in the state.

One candidate is already mired in controversy over whether he’s even eligible to run. And, another candidate has bought airtime to run ads during Super Bowl Sunday right alongside Governor Rick Snyder, who’s term-limited, but in an effort to protect his legacy will air 60-second spots called “Protect Michigan’s Comeback.”

The political demographics of this year’s gubernatorial candidates run the gamut and include: eight Republicans, four Democrats, three Libertarians, three Independents and one Green Party candidate and one Natural Law Party candidate. There are two women, one African American, one Indian American and one Muslim American with the rest of the field being male and white. The youngest candidate is 30 (the minimum age of eligibility) and the most senior candidate is 69.

Granted this is one of the more crowded races, but it might be whittled down to a much smaller number as early as April 24th, which is the official filing deadline. It never fails that one or several candidates may fail to make the ballot for the August 7th primary if they fall short of the required number of valid petition signatures due on deadline day.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed

The race has already been clouded by controversy because the Michigan Democratic Party is now calling on candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, age 33, to ask a court to decide whether he meets eligibility standards to be on the ballot. El-Sayed meets the age requirement, but there is a question about whether he was a registered elector in this state for the four years leading up to the (2018) election as is required by the Michigan Constitution under Article V, Section 22.

El-Sayed registered to vote in 2003 in Michigan as a teen, but then registered and cast a ballot in 2012 in New York, where he completed his medical studies and began an assistant professorship at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York. Public records show he was a registered voter in New York as recently as 2015. El-Sayed re-registered in Michigan in 2016 and did so with a New York driver license, according to Michigan Secretary of State records.

However, Michigan never canceled his voter registration, even during his absence and El-Sayed says he is 100 percent certain that he’s ballot eligible, chalking up the debate to a smear campaign by establishment Democrats. The fact that El-Sayed was a student in New York may be a way out of the legal morass. Students frequently live away from their legal homes during their studies and oftentimes vote via absentee ballot.

Whatever the outcome of the El-Sayed drama, there are still plenty of other candidates so here’s a quick rundown of them all:



Bill Cobbs

William Cobbs: Cobbs is 64, married with two children and lives in  Farmington Hills,  a U.S, Navy veteran and retired Xerox executive who wants to focus on improving K-12 education and improving the state’s infrastructure. Cobbs has a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from U-M and a law degree from Wayne State University. Website:

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: El-Sayed is 33, married with one child and lives in Shelby Township. He  is a medical doctor and former director of the Detroit Health Department. He is also a Rhodes Scholar and former public health professor who says state government has failed to make needed investments in the environment, education and the economy. He has a bachelor’s of science from U-M, a master’s and doctoral degree in public health from Oxford, and a medical degree from Columbia University. Website:

Shri Thanedar Thanedar, 62, of Ann Arbor is married with two children, a businessman and entrepreneur who has owned and managed several companies in the chemical and pharmaceutical testing field. He has contributed about $6 million of his own money to his campaign for governor and will air a campaign ad during Super Bowl Sunday at 8:20 pm (ET). He wants to end corporate welfare for big corporations and help small businesses and entrepreneurs. Website:

Gretchen Whitmer: Whitmer, 46, of East Lansing is married with five children. She is an attorney and former minority leader in the Michigan Senate and state representative. She served as Ingham County Prosecutor and says she is for  protecting  children and workers’ rights, level the playing field, and holding government accountable. Whitmer has a bachelor’s degree in education and a law degree from Michigan State University. Website:



Brian Calley

Brian Calley: Calley, 40, of Portland is married with three children and has been the lieutenant governor of Michigan since 2011. He served two terms in the state House and two terms with the Ionia County Board of Commissioners. Calley has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s of business administration from Grand Valley State University, and a master’s in public administration from Harvard University. Website:

Patrick Colbeck: Colbeck, 52, is married, lives in Canton and has been a state senator since 2011. He is an aerospace engineer and the self-described architect of making Michigan a right-to-work state. His plans are to build longer-lasting roads, reduce health care costs and eliminate the state personal income tax.  Colbeck holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. Website:

Joseph DeRose: DeRose, 57, is married with one child and is a Williamston insurance agent, wants to implement pro-business policies, including elimination of the state’s 6% corporate income tax.  Bottom of DeRose has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in management, both from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.

Dr. Jim Hines: Hines, 62, of Saginaw Township is married with seen children and a medical doctor who has delivered thousands of babies and is making his first run for political office. The first candidate for governor to file his nominating signatures, Hines worked four years as a missionary in the Central African Republic, running hospitals and urgent care centers. He wants to improve Michigan’s job climate, protect the environment and improve infrastructure.Hines has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology and a medical degree, both from Indiana University. Website:

Earl Lackie: Lackie, 58, of Royal Oak is divorced with two children and a retired General Motors employee who has also worked in the oil industry and at a marina. He has owned two small businesses and served as a volunteer firefighter in Oxford Township. Lackie opposes the common core educational standards. Lackie has a degree in automotive and diesel mechanics from Lincoln Technical Institute in Indianapolis. Website:

Mark McFarlin: McFarlin, 52, a private investigator from Pinconning, who ran for governor in 2014 for the U.S. Taxpayers Party. He’s also a former candidate for Bay County executive and Bay County sheriff. He’s pro gun rights and  ran for the state Senate as a Democrat in 2002.

Bill Schuette: Schuette, 64, is married with two children and hails from Midland. Schuette has served as Michigan attorney general since 2011. He is a former judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals, state senator, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, and member of Congress. He has pledged to cut Michigan income taxes and bring the state more and better-paying jobs. Schuette has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of San Francisco. Website:

Evan Space: Space, 37, is single with no children and from Lansing. Space owns a window washing company and has served eight years in the Michigan National Guard, including a deployment to Afghanistan. He advocates for legalization of marijuana, which he would regulate like alcohol. Space is studying political science at Grand Valley State University. Website:



Bill Gelineau

Bill Gelineau: Gelineau, 58, of Lowell, is married with six children. He owns a title insurance company in Grand Rapids wants voters to “get past the notion that there is this binary choice” between the two major parties when voting for governor. A former chairman of the Libertarian Pary in Michigan, Gelineau favors a system of “ranked voting,” where voters can select multiple candidates on their ballots, in order of preference. Bill Gelineau graduated from Riverview Community High School in Wayne County. He studied at U-M and Wayne State University, but did not get a degree. Website:

Jeff Wood : Wood, 32, of Howell is single with no children and an unemployed computer software specialist who says he is running to get people more excited about the Libertarian Party. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 8th District in 2016 and for the state Senate in 2014.Wood has an associate’s degree from Oakland Community College and has studied astrophysics at MSU.

John Tatar: Tatar, 69, of Redford is divorced with two children and he owns a construction company and is a former high school teacher who reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He believes the people should be in charge of Michigan and state employees, including the governor, should be servants working for them. Tatar has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Wayne State University. Website:



Jennifer Kurland : Kurland, 36, of Redford is single with no children, She is president of the Redford Union School Board and has worked in banking and as a field manager for Clean Water Action. She considers herself a democratic socialist and hosts a radio show, The Offensive Feminist with Jenny K, on Cave Radio Broadcasting. Kurland has a bachelor’s degree in political science and public affairs from Wayne State University. Website:



Keith Butkovich: Butkovich, 33, of Wayne, is single with no children and a retail manager. Butkovich says government is overbearing and spending and taxes are too high. He ran unsuccessfully for the Wayne County Commission in 2012, Wayne County Executive in 2014, and for Congress in the 4th District in 2016. Butkovich graduated from Lamphere High School in Madison Heights.



Ryan Henry Cox: Cox, 30, of Clawson is single with one child. He is an education consultant and freelance writer who has developed a teaching system and contracts with a learning company based in Troy. Cox said he is running to educate and challenge the two-party system and will be releasing a series of policy essays on topics such as education, the economy, marijuana, prisons, and health care.Cox has a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University. Website:

Todd Schleiger : Schleiger, 51, of Lake Orion is married with seven children and a dispatcher for a trucking company who has worked 35 years in the transportation industry. He believes the two-party system is broken. He wants to increase spending on K-12 education and make college more affordable for state residents. Schleiger graduated from Davison High School near Flint. Website:

Larry Hutchinson: Hutchinson, 45, a Lansing writer, Hutchinson is divorced with three children. and running as a write-in candidate. He has been a frequent alth unsuccessful candidate for City Council and other elected posts in the Lansing area. He said he is campaigning to return government to the people. Hutchinson attended high school in Flint and studied at U-M Flint.


“Protect Michigan’s Comeback” commercial




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