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Courtesy of Austin for Governor
Governor Gretchen Whitmer is up for re-election in 2022, and she now has her first Republican challenger: Austin Chenge, a 35-year-old businessman and Army veteran from Grand Rapids who, like some of the governor's other critics, calls her a "dictator."
"There's a pandemic in Michigan, but it's not the coronavirus," Chenge says on his campaign website
. "It's the dictator formerly known as Gov Whitmer who only cares about personal ambition & is burying Michigan families/hard working Americans to achieve it..."
Whitmer has repeatedly asked for her critics to turn down the "dictator" rhetoric, which has been used against her by ex-President Donald Trump and Michigan state Sen. Mike Shirkey. Metro Times
asked the Chenge campaign via email if he thought it was a good idea to call her a "dictator" — especially considering the FBI recently revealed Whitmer was the target of an alleged assassination plot
, which Whitmer later said she believed stems from the heated rhetoric from the right and foreshadowed the violent insurrection
at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
Plus, recent polling has found public support for Whitmer to be around 60%. Could calling her a "dictator" be bad for Chenge's political ambitions — and more importantly, dangerous for the Governor?
"Not at all," Chenge tells Metro Times
via email. "A dictator is a ruler who exercises absolute power and control over their State. Gov. Whitmer's unconstitutional orders since last year have not only made her a dictator, but her continued efforts to bypass the legislature or use State departments to enforce her rule, do show a determination and continued effort to remain one for the foreseeable future over Michigan State."
Still, Chenge acknowledges that there are still plenty of citizens who are angry — and could potentially violent.
"While I do not condone violence, as the only GOP Gov Candidate who travelled to all 83 counties in Michigan immediately after the elections from Nov 3rd to Dec 21, 2020, meeting families, farmers, small businesses who have lost everything, I can say more Americans as we saw at the Capitol, may be overwhelmed [by] passion, leading them to do things that may very well be unlawful," he tells Metro Times
In October, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Whitmer's emergency powers
, ruling them to be unconstitutional. Whitmer had invoked the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, which she used to issue a stay-at-home order and close much of the state's economy, and the 1976 Emergency Management Act to extend her emergency powers beyond the initially allowed length of 28 days. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, utilizing a separate law established in response to the Spanish Flu of 1918, was able to mirror many of Whitmer's executive orders that the Michigan Supreme Court struck down.
On Wednesday, Whitmer gave her third State of the State address, which Chenge says he didn't watch.
"I will NOT be watching the Governor Gretchen Whitmer State of the State address this evening out of respect for the many #Michigan families who've lost loved ones in homes under the Gov's orders, people who've lost their jobs/savings, and businesses that have been destroyed," he wrote on his website. "I cannot in good conscience listen to the Gov pat herself on the back while #Americans continue to suffer in their homeland."
Preliminary research from the University of Michigan
found that Whitmer's recent coronavirus efforts, including a "Pause to Save Lives" that closed some industries in November, prevented at least 100,000 coronavirus cases, and saved at least 2,800 lives.
According to Chenge's website, he's an entrepreneur who raised more than $200,000 in funding for his first startup, Holla.com
, which bills itself as an education platform. He also claims to have invented the concept of the social media "Wave" in 2011, before Facebook incorporated it into its platform, as well as designing something called a "Wazobia tricycle" for Nigerian farmers.
Like Whitmer, her also wants to "fix the damn roads," although on his website he calls them "post-apocalyptic."
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