Washtenaw County's Alma Wheeler Smith drops out of race for Michigan governor
State Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem Township, announced today she is dropping out of the Michigan gubernatorial race, leaving only two Democratic candidates vying for the nomination in the Aug. 3 primary.
Smith, 68, has not yet endorsed either of her rivals, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and state House Speaker Andy Dillon.
She told the Detroit Free Press todayÂ she shared a “concern of splitting the progressive vote and ending up with a candidate that does not represent core Democratic values.”
"Democrats need to unify behind a candidate, and I have come to believe that my continued candidacy would only serve to divide us further,” Smith added.
Tuesday is the deadline for candidates to submit petition signatures to appear on the August primary ballot. Smith said she was well on the path to collecting the 15,000 signatures needed to qualify, but decided not to submit them.
Smith acknowledged in a recent interview with AnnArbor.com that her campaign had struggled to garner financial support. But she remained confident her grassroots push for office was gaining momentum.
"The polls show that our momentum is growing well — that the others are kind of plateaued —and I intend to keep moving forward," she said last month. "We are working at raising money, always raising money. Unfortunately, until we do campaign finance reform, it is going to be about who gets the bucks."
Political pundits say Bernero is most likely to benefit from Smith's decision to abandon her bid because, like Smith, he is seen as a progressive, left-leaning candidate and is likely to pull votes from Smith's supporters. Dillon at times has alienated key Democratic constituencies.
"Alma Wheeler Smith is the kind of fighter we need involved in our effort to shake things up in state government and to get our priorities straight in this time of crisis," Bernero said in a statement released today, adding that Michigan Democrats should be proud of Smith for the gubernatorial campaign she ran.
"Alma is a friend, a colleague, and a fellow crusader in the fight to take Michigan back from the special interests and to stand up for the little guy," Bernero said. "She was a tough competitor in Michigan’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. She too has been a strong advocate for working families who are struggling against the banks and insurance companies. Alma has always stood up for what’s right and never backed down from a fight, no matter how long the odds."
Editor's note: AnnArbor.com will have more complete coverage of Smith's decision to abandon her bid for governor later.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.