Amid media attention for allegedly being at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Allendale Township Planning Commissioner Ryan Kelley has filed to run for Michigan governor Michigan in 2022.
Kelley filed a statement of organization with the Michigan Secretary of State for the “Michigan for Ryan D. Kelley” committee to run for governor as a Republican. To appear on the August 2022 GOP primary ballot, Kelley would need to collect a significant number of signatures. In the last gubernatorial election in 2018, candidates were required to gather at least 15,000 valid signatures.
On his campaign website, next to a picture of his family and his two dogs, Kelley says he is a “grassroots American Patriot stepping up to play his part in making Michigan a national leader and keeping our American Republic strong.”
Recent photos and videos from the pro-Trump protest last month that have circulated in the media have drawn attention to Kelley.
Kelley did not respond to an interview request, but Allendale Township Supervisor Adam Elenbass confirmed that Kelley was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Elenbass said he hasn’t seen proof that Kelley broke the law.
“Yes, I know that Ryan Kelley was in Washington D.C.; however I have seen a lot of photos and videos alleging that it is Kelley, but I cannot confirm that he’s in those pictures,” Elenbaas told the Michigan Advance. “I have not seen anything to confirm of [Kelley] breaking the law.”
Elenbaas appointed Kelley as a planning commissioner in fall 2019 to a three-year term ending in 2022.
In photos and videos posted online, Kelley was allegedly seen “rushing up stairs and heading towards one of the U.S. Capitol entrances” and it was “unclear if Kelley entered the Capitol building,” according to WWMT-TV.
Kelley also was allegedly seen at the Capitol with William Null, who was one of 13 men charged in October in the alleged extremist plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Null was charged with material support for terrorist acts and carrying/possessing a firearm while committing a felony. Null was one of the few who surveilled Whitmer’s vacation home and attended multiple anti-Whitmer protests armed with semi-automatic weapons.
When asked about Kelley’s relationship with Null, Elenbaas relayed a previous quote from Kelley.
“I will relay a quote from Mr. Kelley and that is that they had met, but they did not know each other,” Elenbaas said.
The Ottawa County Democratic Party has said Kelley should step down because “his actions prove his disregard for government and those who serve in government with whom he disagrees.”
Whitmer is expected to run for reelection in 2022, but the GOP gubernatorial field is wide open. Austin Chenge, an entrepreneur, also is running as a Republican. Well-known officials who have been named as potential candidates are Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, but none have declared.
This is not the first time Kelley has been under fire. For months, some residents have called for Kelley to step down from his position as Allendale planning commissioner over his relationship with Null and the group Kelley founded. The group, the “American Patriot Council,” has organized protests around the state opposing COVID-19 restrictions and wants to keep a Civil War statue in place in Allendale.
The statue, located at Allendale Community Park, is of a Confederate soldier holding a Confederate flag standing back to back with a Union soldier holding an American flag, with a Black child at their feet holding a sign that says, “Freedom to slaves.” Michigan sent thousands of soldiers to fight on the Union side, including Black troops, and more than 14,000 total were killed.
Allendale Township Attorney Bob Sullivan told FOX-17 that Kelley could be removed, but only for “misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance committed within his duties as a planning commissioner,” per township’s Planning Enabling Act. The board mainly oversees zoning ordinance, making removal a less likely option.
Elenbaas echoed that sentiment.
“I try very hard with any people who are employed by the township, whether they’re employees or appointed officials, I try not to make comments about people’s personal lives outside their profession,” Elenbaas said. “That was something [Kelley] did outside of his role as planning commissioner, so I prefer to decline to comment.”
Elenbaas also stressed that Kelley is not an elected official, but is appointed to his position as planning commissioner, so he is not an official employee of the township.
“The planning commissioners are not full-time employees,” Elenbaas said. “They meet as a body once every two to three weeks for two to three hours.”
Elenbaas recognized there has been some concern raised from residents around Kelley.
“At the end of the day, we all have our own personal lives to live and we get to choose how to do that,” Elenbaas said. “Kelley is not a representative of the township. He’s not an elected official. However, I do realize his actions reflect on the township because of his position. He has no legal standing on any grounds, he’s not in a position to represent us, but I do realize that it reflects on us.”