James Craig, a former Detroit Police Chief, in Detroit on Sept. 14, 2021.

Former Detroit police chief James Craig enters the GOP Senate race in Michigan

James Craig, the former Detroit police chief who was disqualified from Michigan’s Republican primary for governor last year after failing to collect enough valid signatures, announced Tuesdaythat he will seek the state’s open Senate seat in 2024.

Craig’s decision sets up a potentially fractious primary in a state where the GOP recently has suffered historic losses, in part by nominating candidates who hew closely to former President Donald Trump and his election conspiracy theories.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican with establishment appeal who has been critical of Trump, is already in the race. Craig has signaled that he will align himself more with Trump’s vision for the party. 

“Americans want better, and they want something different, and we’re going to give it to them,” Craig says in a video posted to his new Senate campaign website.

The video, which features footage of past interviews with former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, emphasizes issues like crime and includes images of Craig in uniform.

“I’m James Craig,” he says straight to the camera at the end of the video, “and I’m running for U.S. Senate.”

The Michigan seat is opening with the retirement of longtime Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, and is one of the races that could help determine partisan control of the chamber. Rep. Elissa Slotkin has locked down key support in her bid for the Democratic nomination. Actor Hill Harper is also running in that primary. 

Craig takes a shot at Slotkin in his introductory video: “These are individuals who are political servants, not public servants,” he is heard saying as images of Slotkin, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and President Joe Biden appear on screen.

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Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes accused Craig of having a “long record of dodging accountability” in a statement responding to his candidacy.

“Michigan Republicans’ nasty, chaotic Senate primary has gone from bad to worse,” Barnes said. “Their intra-party fight is guaranteed to leave them with a nominee who is badly damaged and out of step with working families.” 

Craig’s high name recognition in Detroit and his law enforcement background — he also has served as a police chief in Cincinnati and Portland, Maine — helped make him the early favorite for the GOP nomination for governor in 2022. But his campaign was the target of an alleged forgery scheme that resulted in him lacking enough valid petition signatures to qualify for the primary ballot. Tudor Dixon, a conservative commentator who landed Trump, won the nomination and lost to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a landslide. 

“Remember ‘The Gong Show?’” Rogers — referring to a late ‘70s televised talent show where losers were voted off by the sound of a gong — said in an interview earlier this year when referring to his party’s losses last year. “I think we got a double gong.”

The Senate primary field could widen more, with former Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican who voted to impeach Trump after the Capitol riot in January 2021, considering a bid.

Henry J. Gomez

Henry J. Gomez is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.