Out-of-touch millionaire Kevin Rinke is the latest to be profiled by Bridge Michigan as the crowded and ‘chaotic’ Republican gubernatorial primary comes to a close in just over three weeks.
Despite pledging to spend $10 million in an attempt to buy the election, the used Toyota dealer has only managed to yield “middling returns,” using his wealth to air categorically false ads to scare Michiganders into backing his “aggressively conservative positions.”
And yet again, Rinke “refused to name a single thing he’d cut from the state budget” as he continues to push a “piss-poor public policy proposal” that would slash almost $12 billion annually from critical services like law enforcement, public education, and infrastructure.
See excerpts below from Bridge Michigan on the campaign that remains “dogged” by Rinke’s extensive string of racial and sexual harassment and read the full report here.
Bridge Michigan: Kevin Rinke Channels Trump’s Business Outsider Label in MI Governor’s Race
By Jonathan Oosting
Kevin Rinke isn’t buying Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was “stolen,” but the Michigan gubernatorial hopeful is spending millions on ads comparing himself to the former president and echoing unsubstantiated claims about “dead” voters. […]
He’s pledged to spend $10 million of his own money, making him the biggest spender left in a GOP primary rocked by disqualifications.
After buying the family business from his dad in the late 1980s, Rinke expanded Pontiac/GMC, Toyota and later Cadillac franchises into what he called ”probably the most successful private auto dealership group in Michigan” before selling the company to Roger Penske in 2003. […]
Rinke’s business record is not without blemishes, however.
In 1992, four former employees sued Rinke and Pontiac/GMC, alleging he discriminated against them on the basis of sex, race and age, accusations he denies, though he paid a settlement to dismiss one of the cases at the time […]
But he’s also staked out aggressively conservative positions on several fronts: He wants to eliminate state income taxes, scrap concealed pistol permits to make Michigan a “constitutional carry” state, use armed military veterans for school security rather than enact gun control measures, and he wants to limit school discussions about race and sexual orientation. […]
Rinke has used statewide TV ads to cater to voters who believe Trump’s claims, however, in one, he suggests “dead people always vote Democrat” before promising to clean up Michigan voter rolls and tighten the state’s voter ID law.
The zombie ad was ridiculed by fact-checkers, who called its dead voter claim “flat-out false,” but Rinke insists it was a “tongue-in-cheek” joke meant to grab viewers’ attention before telling them about serious election reform proposals.
“My ad isn’t about dead people voting or not voting. My ad isn’t about the Trump election. My ad is about election integrity, and the citizens of Michigan deserve that,” he told Bridge. “I want voter IDs and so do people in Michigan and so do people in America. It’s not racist. It’s common sense.”
Despite pouring millions into television ads, Rinke “has not been able to gain as much traction as you think he would, given the amount of expenditures,” Mitchell said. “He still has not been able to move himself away from the rest of the pack.”
It makes sense for Rinke to start comparing himself to Trump because he had seen only a “middling” return on his early campaign messaging that had primarily focused on leadership, said John Sellek, a GOP strategist with Harbor Strategic Consulting.
“To win the GOP primary, you can’t avoid it,” Sellek said of Trump’s lingering influence. “That’s just how it works right now.” […]
Rinke has turned heads with what he calls a “bold” policy proposal to eliminate Michigan’s personal income tax, which is currently set at 4.25 percent and generates nearly $12 billion in annual revenue for state and local governments.
Whitmer’s campaign has argued the plan would slash funding used to pay for “critical services,” including education, infrastructure and public safety, but Rinke contends the state could afford to put more money back in people’s pockets.
Speaking to Bridge, Rinke refused to name a single thing he’d cut from the state budget, which will grow to nearly $77 billion next year under a deal between Whitmer and the GOP-led Legislature that includes a surplus resulting from federal COVID stimulus funding and unexpectedly large tax collections.
Instead, Rinke said, he’d delay a tax cut for one year, giving himself and lawmakers time to negotiate any necessary spending cuts, which he called a “good-faith gesture” that is emblematic of “how a leader works with his team.”
Under Michigan’s current tax structure, a family earning $60,000, which is roughly the state median, would save $2,338 if the state income tax was eliminated. A family that earned $1 million would save $42,288. […]
While he touts his business record, Rinke’s campaign has been dogged by a pair of 1992 lawsuits from four former employees who alleged he effectively forced them to quit by making their workplace unbearable at Rinke Pontiac/GMC in Macomb County, accusations he has repeatedly denied.
One woman alleged Rinke made a series of “offensive and disgusting” comments. Among other things, she claimed Rinke, in front of co-workers, asked her if she was wearing a matching bra and panties. He would also call her after hours at home to ask what “young stud” she was with, she claimed.
Another former employee, who is Black, accused Rinke of using the n-word repeatedly at a 1991 Christmas party, making him feel “extremely embarrassed, humiliated and outraged.” Rinke, the man alleged, accused him of stealing cars like the “rest of the n-” and speculated about the size of the employee’s penis.
Those claims “weren’t true” three decades ago and “they’re not true today,” Rinke told Bridge.
Rinke and plaintiffs eventually agreed to dismiss both suits, with court records indicating a $15,000 settlement in the sex and age discrimination case. Rinke called that a “nuisance settlement” to end litigation that could have cost him up to $200,000 in attorney fees and related costs had it gone to trial. There was no financial settlement in the race discrimination suit, he previously told Bridge.
Jamil Akhtar, an employment discrimination attorney who represented the former Rinke Pontiac/GMC workers, stood by the allegations. Rinke had an “inability to control himself,” Akhtar said. “He was a liar when I took his deposition, and he’s a liar now.”
GOP rival Tudor Dixon has also used the allegations to attack Rinke, calling him “pervy.” A super PAC supporting Dixon published online ads arguing the lawsuits make Rinke “unelectable” in a general election matchup with Whitmer. […]
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