SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) – Governor Synder officially endorsed his long-time lieutenant, Republican Brian Calley, in the governor’s race, a move that will enable the governor to play a more active role raising money for Calley and publicly touting their economic record.

Calley has been lieutenant governor since 2011. He hosted Snyder at an afternoon campaign event at a construction company in vote-rich Oakland County in suburban Detroit, where they fared well in the 2010 and 2014 elections. He is among four leading GOP gubernatorial candidates, including early front-runner state Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Snyder said he is proud of his governorship and his partnership with Calley, and the election is “an opportunity to pass that baton on to leadership that can take it to an even higher level, to build on the foundation that … has been built and do even better. We have the best leader possible to do that standing next to me.”

While the second-term governor’s approval ratings remain low in the wake of the Flint water crisis, those numbers are “inconsequential” at this stage because other candidates will tie Calley to Snyder regardless of the endorsement, said pollster Ed Sarpolus of Target-Insyght in Lansing.

“There’s a lot of people who like Snyder and his policies in the business community and what he’s achieved,” he said. “The bottom line is Calley needs support in raising funds and open doors for Calley. That’s what Snyder does.”

The race is heating up 4½ months before August’s GOP primary. Calley — who said he wants to continue the governor’s approach to “civility” in politics — began airing TV ads last week and Schuette unveiled a plan to improve reading scores. In response to Snyder’s pending endorsement of Calley, Schuette noted that he had secured the backing of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and others.

“No other campaign is entering the second quarter of 2018 in a stronger position for the hard work ahead,” Schuette spokesman John Sellek said.

Michigan voters historically have not promoted lieutenant governors to the governorship. The last time a sitting lieutenant governor ran for governor and won was 1960.

Also seeking the Republican nomination are conservative state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines, a self-funded candidate.

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