Posturing is more important than debating for Ryan Kelley, part of the Republican pack jostling to oppose Gretchen Whitmer in November.
The West Michigan real estate agent, who's among five gubernatorial primary candidates invited to debate June 2 at the Mackinac Policy Conference, objects to a Detroit Regional Chamber requirement that registrants be fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test. That rule doesn't cover guests at the outdoor debate, but Kelley vocally proclaims that the business group draws a line he won't cross.
"This [rule] is a dealbreaker. If I am required to play the radical left's Covid game I will decline participation, and every other Republican governor candidate should decline participation if we are required to show vaccine IDs or take Covid tests," he says Monday on social media and in an email to backers. (See video below.)
Health safety defiance -- what he calls "medical freedom" -- is a recurring campaign theme for the political newcomer, a strident critic of the Democratic governor's 2020 pandemic safeguards.
On Facebook three days earlier, he vowed: "Day ONE with Governor Kelley -- Pandemic is OVER. No more mandates, COVID regulations, etc. ... Go pound sand CDC, Michigan not playing your radical left games."
Others invited to the Mackinac Island debate in two weeks are James Craig, Perry Johnson, Kevin Rinke and Garrett Soldano. Five lower-polling longshots also jam the primary field: Tudor Dixon, Michael Brown, Donna Brandenburg, Ralph Rebandt, and Michael Markey.