“We follow his Twitter, his Facebook, his Instagram — everything,” Lisa Throop said after attending a Soldano meet-and-greet at a Grand Rapids pastry shop. “We just kind of started following and listening because we weren’t really happy with the direction things were going.”
Soldano’s initial group, Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine, “made us feel like we were not alone,” Throop told Bridge. “And then everybody started joining and it kind of gave us a little more motivation to speak out.”
In Facebook videos no longer online, Soldano questioned former President Donald Trump’s claims the 2020 election was rigged, saying he didn’t have time to go down “rabbit holes”. He criticized riots in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying “hate can’t drive out hate — only love can do that.”
Soldano has more recently described the 2020 election as “a disaster” and called for a “full forensic audit.” Trump is “still my president,” he said in last week’s GOP debate.
His campaign has largely focused on other issues, including reforming pandemic policies, improving education, helping small businesses and supporting “energy-dense” power like nuclear and gas.
Garrett Soldano, a GOP candidate for governor in Michigan, says we must inspire women who have been raped to understand how heroic they are in giving birth and see that “God put them in this moment.”
They don’t know “that baby inside them may be the next president.” pic.twitter.com/uVVqX2G54S
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) January 31, 2022
Soldano made national news in February when he said he thinks women who are raped should not have abortions because “that little baby inside them might be the next president.” That infuriated abortion rights activists, but he said the attention was “great news” that exposed him to a national audience.
Soldano is “a very strong candidate, because he came in early, has had enough money and has a compelling message to hardcore conservatives,” said GOP pollster Steve Mitchell of Mitchell Research and Communications.
“If you’re going to establish a niche in the primary, you want to try to become the most conservative candidate out there. And he’s done that.”
A death threat, from within
In Facebook videos and campaign speeches, Soldano has claimed his work in Stand Up Michigan made him a target of the “woke left and their cancel culture.”
He has twice had to move his wife and kids to undisclosed locations “because we had a guy on video saying he’s gonna come shotgun me dead in the streets,” Soldano told Bridge, repeating the claims.
He claimed he lost 50 percent of the revenue at his chiropractic clinic in Kalamazoo as online commenters left negative reviews, and someone destroyed his business sign.
“That was all for standing up for the Constitution,” Soldano said.
Bridge reviewed records and confirmed that Soldano reported an alleged death threat to police in October 2020, but the man who made the shotgun threat was a fellow Stand Up Michigan activist — not the “woke left mob,” according to a Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
At the time, Soldano told a deputy the man had lashed out after he was fired from Stand Up during a dispute over a video encouraging parents to speak to teachers about masks in schools.
The man thought the video, posted on Stand Up social media accounts, was a “direct attack towards teachers,” including his daughter, and deleted it without approval from colleagues, according to deputy interview notes.
The case was ultimately closed without any criminal charges. The man’s wife told police he was “hot headed” but “had no intentions of harming anyone,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Kidd wrote in the incident report.
Kalamazoo and Mattawan police did not have any other records of alleged crimes at Soldano’s home or chiropractic clinic in either 2020 or 2021.
In an interview with Bridge, Soldano acknowledged the shotgun threat came from a colleague but said he was the target of additional death threats that he did not report to police. Instead, he said, he called old police academy friends (he had considered becoming an officer several years earlier) and asked them to increase patrols in his neighborhood.
Other records show Soldano was charged with drunk driving in April 2009. He pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while visibly impaired and refusing a preliminary breath test in Kalamazoo Township. He paid $625 in fines.
“I’m going to make mistakes going forward as a human being, as a dad, as a governor,” Soldano told Bridge, noting he has discussed the incident in social media videos.
“I’m going to come on, and I’m going to be transparent about it, and I’m going to address it. That’s what you have to do with those things. Nobody’s perfect.”
Soldano believes in the power of wishful thinking, a philosophy he describes at length in his 2013 book, “God’s True Law: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Successful Children.”
The spiritual guide borrows heavily from the New Thought Movement’s Law of Attraction, which holds that positive thinking produces magnetic energy that leads to positive experiences, whereas negative thoughts lead to negative experiences.
The theory was popularized in 2006 by self-help guru Rhonda Byrne, who published a book and movie called “The Secret” that was endorsed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Larry King. It’s largely derided as pseudoscience, although research has shown a link between health and positive thinking.
“The time it takes for true desires to turn into reality varies from person to person depending on how much garbage (limiting beliefs) is in the subconscious mind,” Soldano wrote.
Soldano told readers he recites daily affirmations like: “I am so happy and grateful now that money comes to me in increased quantities from multiple sources on a continued basis” and “I am so happy and grateful now that I can feel my abundance growing daily.”
Likewise, Soldano explained that he had his sons — 2 and 4 years old at the time — repeat affirmations like “I’m smart!” and “Money comes easy to me!”
“God speaks to us through the Law of Vibration and when you have these feelings you must follow them,” Soldano wrote. “When you meet someone for the first time and you get a bad feeling about the person, you should follow what God is trying to tell you and stay away.”
Now, as a gubernatorial candidate, Soldano told Bridge he has a new daily affirmation that his campaign has printed on T-shirts and coffee mugs: “The power of one can lead to the power of many.”
“You never know what one small act that you may do or say or video you may make, that may change lives of millions tomorrow,” Soldano said. “I remind myself of that daily.”
A chiropractic adjustment
Soldano was born in Cincinnati but moved at a young age to Coldwater, a southern Michigan city of about 10,00 people, where he says he lived in a trailer and grew up relatively poor until his dad earned promotions and better pay in the National Guard. The family later moved about 50 miles east to Onsted, in Lenawee County, where Soldano graduated from high school.
He was a star linebacker on the Western Michigan University football team. As a senior in 2000, he recorded 115 tackles, was named team MVP and selected a First-Team All-Conference player in the Mid-American Conference.
In his book, Soldano wrote that Black teammates at Western helped him overcome his own “racist belief” that was instilled in the overwhelmingly white rural Michigan towns of his youth and trips to Ohio, where a relative had criticized “stupid n*****” in his presence. (In the book, Soldano did not use asterisks)
“I never ever had a conversation with a Black American before” going to college, Soldano told Bridge, noting his prior exposure to African American culture had been limited to rap music and movies like “Boyz N The Hood.”
“Racism is taught,” Soldano said.
Soldano dreamed of the NFL and was invited to the Chicago Bears training camp in 2001. But he was cut before the season began. He returned to school at Palmer Chiropractic College in Iowa and eventually opened his own business, a clinic in Kalamazoo with plans to expand.
Soldano and his wife moved to Florida in 2016. There, he opened a “few” chiropractic clinics as part of a “20-year-plan” to move into a strictly management role, he said. But he missed working with patients and he missed Michigan, Soldano explained, so his family moved back home.
Secretary of State records show Soldano re-registered to vote in Michigan in March of 2018, making him eligible for both the August primary and November general election under the Michigan Constitution, which requires gubernatorial candidates be “qualified electors” of the state for four years before taking office.
Soldano closed other clinics in Mattawan and Richland too, and he now operates the single facility in Kalamazoo, where he applied for and received roughly $228,000 in forgivable COVID loans to continue employing nine people through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Online reviews for the Soldano Family Chiropractic Center are largely positive, although some Yelp users say the clinic does not take COVID seriously. Former patient Carina Hilbert told Bridge that Soldano “was helpful,” but she got a “weird vibe” from his clinic.
“You get the feeling that he’s a salesman,” she said. “He’s selling his book. He’s selling the supplements. He’s got posters up with his own quotes on the wall.”
‘An environment of greatness’
Soldano’s money-making ventures include his work as a national marketing director for Juice Plus, a health supplement that clients say he also sold at his chiropractic clinics. The fruit and vegetable capsules are sold through a multi-level marketing company that relies on sellers recruiting other sellers.
When the pandemic hit Michigan in spring 2020, Soldano reportedly claimed on his since-deleted podcast that if his family got COVID-19, they could “get over it” because they were already taking Juice Plus to boost their immune systems.