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GOP’s Perry Johnson launches Michigan governor bid with Super Bowl ad

Perry Johnson, founder of a Troy-based firm, seeks to separate himself in a crowded Republican field by positioning himself as a ‘quality guru’ and businessman.

June 1: Perry Johnson loses appeal in fight to make Michigan’s GOP ballot
May 24: GOP vows fight to keep candidates on Michigan ballot. ‘This is far from over’
May 23: James Craig, Perry Johnson, three others shouldn’t make GOP ballot, state says
March 14: Perry Johnson built an empire on ‘quality.’ But he never ‘saved’ auto industry

LANSING — Metro Detroit businessman Perry Johnson is launching his bid for Michigan governor with a splash, beginning a $1.5 million advertising campaign with a commercial in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Johnson, 74, is the founder of Perry Johnson Registrars, a Troy-based firm that helps other companies comply with government and industry certification standards.

    The political outsider and virtual unknown is the second millionaire to enter the crowded race for the Republican nomination, joining Oakland County's Kevin Rinke in a dozen-candidate field.

    Related:

    The winner of the GOP primary will take on first-term Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the November general election. 

    Johnson filed paperwork to run for governor in January and last week announced he would put an initial $2.5 million of his own money into the race, matching the amount Whitmer raised last quarter. 

    The self-described "quality guru" touts his international business background in the new Super Bowl ad, which his campaign says will air in most television markets across the state, either before, during or after the game. 

    "Can you really think of a profession more desperately in need of quality than government?" he asks, going on to take a few jabs at the Whitmer administration by referencing COVID-19 nursing home deaths and billions of dollars of unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic. 

    "I brought quality to 61 countries," Johnson says. "Let's do it here at home."

    Johnson is the latest Michigan businessman to try to use a Super Bowl ad to boost his political profile. Former Gov. Rick Snyder defined himself as "one tough nerd" in a 2010 Super Bowl spot before winning election. Democrat Shri Thanedar's "name game" ad was less memorable in 2018, when he lost the nomination to Whitmer.

    With the Aug. 2 primary less than six months away, the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination appears to be wide open. 

    Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig entered the race last fall as the presumed front runner but has posted sluggish fundraising numbers. More Trump-aligned candidates including podcaster Tudor Dixon of Muskegon and chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Kalamazoo also reported spending more than they raised last quarter.

    Other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls include businesswoman Donna Brandenburg, entrepreneur Austin Chenge, Michigan State Police Captain Michael Brown, former Allendale Township Planning Commissioner Ryan Kelley, Bob Scott of Howell, Michael Markey of Kentwood and Pastor Ralph Rebandt. 

    To qualify for the primary ballot, candidates must collect at least 15,000 petition signatures by April 19. So far, only Soldano has turned in petitions. 

    The Democratic Governors Association slammed Johnson last month when he filed campaign paperwork, calling him an "out-of-touch millionaire" who joins a "long list of out-of-touch Republicans" running for governor. 

    Johnson founded Perry Johnson Registrars, Inc., in the early 1990s. He has written books on international quality management standards and has also given lectures as a motivational speaker

    In a letter to friends and family this weekend as he launched his campaign, Johnson described himself as a political outsider who would bring a new attention to detail to Lansing.

    "Michiganders deserve better, demand better, and will have much better government by following the lead of business and sports and using statistical methods in the relentless pursuit of quality," he wrote. 

    "That is why I am running for governor."

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