Opinion

Introducing the man Democrats, Whitmer want to face in November

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Had you ever heard of Ryan D. Kelley before last week?  

He's not a former attorney general. He's not a former Michigan Supreme Court justice. He's not a former judge. He's not even an attorney. To the best of my knowledge, he's not even related to any of the aforementioned. 

He's a Republican gubernatorial candidate, one of the five who managed to collect 15,000 signatures from real people. Kelley is a rabblerouser who is connecting with the conspiratorial wing of the Republican Party. 

He's a real estate broker and township planning commissioner married to a YouTube influencer (Tabitha Kelley of "This Momma's House") who was probably more famous statewide (definitely, nationally) than he was until about noon last Thursday. 

It was about then that Michigan learned the FBI had pulled Kelley away from his Allendale house on four misdemeanor charges related to his antics around the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riots.  

Literally a few hours later, a congressional committee laid out its summary. A mob, with Trump's placid blessing, busted into the Capitol to, presumably, prevent the certification of the 2020 election. 

Coincidence? It's hard to believe it was. 

The social media coverage on Kelley's presence in Washington isn't new. He's acknowledged it numerous times. The alleged video of him encouraging people to charge up the Capitol steps has been around for about a year. 

And, yet, the federal authorities decided last Thursday, 500 days after the riot, was the perfect day to arrest this guy? The same day Congress released new video and testimony on primetime TV. 

You don't need to own a tin-foil hat to be scratching your head on this one. 

A month ago, I never believed I'd be writing these words. Today, it's something we all need to seriously consider. Ryan D. Kelley is officially a serious gubernatorial candidate. 

With James Craig trying to mount a write-in campaign, Perry Johnson's big bucks on the sidelines and none of the other four remaining candidates known to many GOP primary voters, Kelley is just as likely as Kevin Rinke or Tudor Dixon or even Garrett Soldano to win this thing. 

That's exactly what Democrats want. 

After Craig and Johnson were booted off the ballot for turning in too many fraudulent petition signatures and not enough valid signatures, Target Insyght did a poll that found — unsurprisingly — 49% of Republican voters had no idea what they were doing in the Aug. 2 primary. 

The surprisingly 19% plurality, though, said Kelley.  

The guy had done no TV ads of note. There's been no statewide mailings. He's operating on a shoe-string budget. He's done a ton of public appearances, but very few media interviews because, honestly, nobody thought he'd win. 

In a field where Republican voters don't know anybody, they side with the familiar Irish surname over such unfamiliar names like "Rinke," "Rebandt," "Tudor" or "Soldano." 

With this as a base, Democrats want to raise Kelley's stature as a martyr among Republican voters so they can destroy him as an insurrectionist in the fall. 

Don't put it past the Democratic Governors Association to highlight Kelley's arrest on FoxNews to boost his numbers. In fact, they're doing it right now.  

Rinke has some ugly lawsuits from 30 years ago. Dixon did some strange horror films 13 years ago. Soldano sold nutritional supplements during COVID as a way to boost a person's immunity against COVID. These are fine negatives in a normal year. 

But there's video of Kelley that can easily be framed as him encouraging a mob of possible Proud Boys and the 3 Percenters to charge the U.S. Capitol.  

More TV ads will show that. And if you miss the commercials, the media will report on Kelley going through his court proceedings while running for governor.  

This will be a national story. Will Michigan elect an insurrectionist as governor? 

Yup, whom do Democrats want the governor facing this fall? There's no question. 

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at melinnky@gmail.com.)

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