LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Kalamazoo chiropractor who opposed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home orders when the coronavirus pandemic struck and helped with an effort to repeal her emergency powers announced Wednesday that he will run against the Democrat in 2022.

Garrett Soldano, a Republican, last spring started a Facebook group called “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine" that gained roughly 380,000 members before the social media company shut it down. He co-chaired Unlock Michigan, a GOP-affiliated ballot initiative that would wipe from the books a law — which was later declared unconstitutional — that Whitmer used to issue restrictions to curb COVID-19.

“Like President Trump, I’m not a politician and I’ve never run for office before,” Soldano said in a statement. “Michigan needs a governor who will restore the freedoms that Gretchen Whitmer has stripped away from all of us.”

He released an 11-minute campaign video that includes comments from an Owosso barber who defied the governor and reopened his shop.

The 42-year-old Soldano, who played football at Western Michigan University and lives in Mattawan, is the fifth Republican to form a gubernatorial committee. All are lesser-known candidates.

The Michigan Democratic Party called Soldano “fringe” and a “snake oil salesman,” saying his bid shows the GOP cannot recruit a viable contender.

Whitmer gradually loosened restrictions in the winter following a fall surge but generally has not tightened them during a third wave of infections, instead urging vaccinations. Mask rules, capacity limits and gathering caps remain in place.


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