Prominent anti-lockdown activist will challenge Gretchen Whitmer for governor

Garrett Soldano, a former college football star who gained online popularity opposing Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2022.

Soldano, 42 of Mattawan, Michigan, owns and operates a chiropractor business in Kalamazoo and served as co-chairman of the Unlock Michigan campaign, whose mission is to repeal the state laws that allow the governor to declare a state of emergency.

“We need to reopen Michigan and start the recovery by giving people their lives back,” Soldano said. “The pandemic hurt people who got the coronavirus, but Gov. Whitmer is responsible for the closing of businesses, kids falling behind in school, and people losing their livelihoods all in the name of a power grab.”

Soldano not only acknowledges his lack of political experience, but he also touts it as an asset. Former Republican President Donald Trump “blazed a trail,” showing that he doesn’t “have to be a politician to get elected,” he said.

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

In response to Gov. Whitmer’s extension of the stay-at-home order last April, he founded a Facebook group called Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine with a page that gained more than 380,000 followers. The social media company eventually removed the group, citing it violated their policy against “advocating the spread of COVID-19.”

The 380,000 member group was a “non-violent, positive movement,” Soldano said.

In launching his campaign, he released an 11-minute video, entitled “Taking Back Michigan,” Wednesday. The video details personal accounts of the negative impacts of Whitmer’s lockdown policies and restrictions on businesses. Barber Karl Manke, who gained attention for defying COVID-19 orders and keeping his shop open, was also featured.

“We need a person like Garrett that is not a politician, that is willing to take off the gloves and fight,” Manke said.

Soldano’s activism, he says, led to a visit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to his home after someone reported him as “an extremist.”

“I got to share our story about our movement on how we’ve always been a nonviolent, positive movement. Isn’t that something?” Soldano said. “For the person who reported me to the FBI, nice try. Try again.”

Soldano posted a video to his youtube account, which has over 7,600 subscribers blasting Whitmer for her response to the pandemic. “I stood up when it was unpopular because I knew in my heart and soul it was wrong because your rights, your freedoms, your sacred values should never be infringed upon, regardless of a pandemic.”

“You do not get to take away people’s rights and cloak it under a pandemic.” He added that other states opened their economies more quickly than Michigan and are now doing better than Michigan in the fight against COVID-19. For nearly a month, Michigan has led the nation in new COVID-19 cases per population, according to tracking by the CDC. Overall, Michigan ranks 35th for cases per population for the entire pandemic.