Ryan Kelley, a leading Republican contender to take on Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer this fall, was arrested Thursday and charged with four misdemeanors stemming from his appearance at the Capitol riot. This may put a slight dent in his bid for higher office.
Kelley was taken into custody at his home in western Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports that FBI agents had obtained a search warrant for Kelley’s home and that the candidate would appear in court later Thursday. An FBI charging document accuses Kelley of disorderly conduct and engaging in physical violence, among other offenses.
It had long been known that Kelley, a Realtor, former town-planning commissioner, and Confederate-statue defender, was in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. There is plenty of photo and video evidence of Kelley’s presence at the Capitol that day. Democrats have circulated a video they say shows Kelley using incendiary language on the steps of the Capitol.
Kelley has downplayed his role in the day’s events. “I never went inside the Capitol building, never had the intention to and did not go inside, nor did I have any altercation with police officers. That was never the intention,” Kelley told a local outlet last year.
It’s unclear why the FBI waited this long to arrest Kelley, but the move coincides with the beginning of Congress’s January 6 hearings, which air on national television starting Thursday night.
So far, the attempt to unseat Whitmer, a relatively popular governor who may have national ambitions, has been a train wreck for Republicans. Five candidates were recently disqualified from the primary ballot by the state’s election bureau after the signatures they gathered were found to contain forgeries and other irregularities. These included poll leader James Craig and another serious contender, Perry Johnson. That left another five candidates with Kelley the leader in recent polls.
It may be time for the state’s Republican Party to reevaluate its vetting system.