Former Pontiac Dealer Kevin Rinke Pledges $ 10 Million in GOP Offer to Become Governor of Michigan
DETROIT – Kevin Rinke, who has amassed a fortune in auto dealerships and head injury care, is devoting $ 10 million of his personal fortune to the Republican bid for Michigan gubernatorial and the impeachment of incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Rinke, the former owner of Rinke Automotive Group, enters the field of 11 Republicans vying to take on Whitmer in the November 2022 election.
On Monday, Rinke kicked off his campaign with a Michigan-based television commercial that draws on his roots as the owner of one of the most successful Pontiac car dealerships in the world.
The ad shows Rinke driving a 1969 Pontiac GTO muscle car on a racetrack and compares Whitmer to a Yugo, the Yugoslav compact car that is often regarded in the auto industry as one of the worst vehicles ever built.
“Gretchen Whitmer, she’s stepping straight off the assembly line of disastrous career politicians,” Rinke said in the ad. “It’s a Yugo.”
Rinke, 60, who resides in Bloomfield Township, has been largely absent from the Detroit Metro car dealership scene for more than a decade after selling Rinke Automotive Group to Penske Automotive Group (formerly UnitedAuto Group) in 2000.
Rinke Automotive Group was once one of the world’s leading General Motors dealer groups. Kevin Rinke’s cousin Ed Rinke owns Ed Rinke Chevrolet Buick GMC in Center Line, Michigan.
After selling his dealerships to Roger Penske, Kevin Rinke worked for UnitedAuto Group in the early 2000s before becoming an executive at Sonic Automotive, another large publicly traded dealer group.
Rinke is focusing his campaign on Whitmer, though he will have to eliminate retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, Kalamazoo chiropractor Garrett Soldano and seven other lesser-known candidates in a Republican primary in August next.
In an interview on Monday with Crain’s Business in Detroit, a subsidiary of Automotive News, Rinke criticized one of Whitmer’s iconic accomplishments – sweeping changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system.
“The bill that was signed (by Whitmer) made promises that it really broke,” Rinke said. “And the people who were injured and had valid claims suffered because of the way the bill was drafted and I think it needs more work.”
After Rinke left the car dealership business, he bought Cassell & Associates, two acute traumatic brain injury clinics in Novi and Warren that treat injured motorists. He then sold these facilities to Boston-based NeuroRestorative.
Rinke isn’t the first multimillionaire to self-fund a campaign for governor of Michigan.
Amway heir and West Michigan billionaire Dick DeVos spent a record $ 36 million in 2006 in an unsuccessful attempt to topple outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.
The $ 11 million Ann Arbor venture capitalist Rick Snyder spent in 2010 helped him to a life-shattering victory in the Republican primary that year over four career GOP politicians – and win office of the governor.
Rinke said he was spending $ 10 million to “get the word out” and strengthen his name identification among Michigan Republican primary voters.
“It’s going to be a costly race for the governor,” Rinke said Crain’s. “I am prepared to invest in Michigan people with my own funds because I have something to offer.”
Michigan Democratic Party spokeswoman Rodericka Applewhaite said Monday that Rinke was trying to “buy” the governor’s office.
“Although he plans to stand out by trying to buy this election, he sides with the rest of the field in his extreme views and his only goal is to challenge an election that happened over the years ago. a year on issues that matter to Michigan families, ”Applewhaite said in a statement.
“The Michiganers deserve a governor who will truly stand up for working families and the issues that concern them, like the recently signed infrastructure law that will invest in repairing local roads and creating well-paying jobs.”