LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday submitted voter signatures to run for reelection, saying Michigan needs continued strong leadership as it emerges from tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first-term Democrat thanked about 100 boisterous supporters near the Capitol before she and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist submitted the petitions that candidates must file.

READ MORE: What Is The Best Sunscreen For Me? Environmental Working Group Releases Annual Guide

“The surprises we’ve had to deal with over the last few years have been something out of fiction,” she said. “And yet we’ve stood together, stood our ground and delivered for the people of this great state. We are ready to run for reelection.”

At the same time, 70 miles away in Grand Rapids, jurors heard a third day of testimony against four men charged with conspiring to kidnap the governor over her stay-home orders and other restrictions during the early phase of the pandemic.

After her campaign event, Whitmer declined to assess the 10-plus Republican candidates vying to challenge her. She said she will stay focused on key tasks such as negotiating the next state budget, including boosting school funding and supporting small businesses amid a $7 billion surplus.

Whitmer is the first incumbent governor in 48 years to seek reelection while her party controls the White House, a dynamic the GOP is optimistic about since midterms typically favor the party opposite the president. But the Republican field of political newcomers is untested and has grown in recent months without a clear front-runner.

READ MORE: Parole Denied For Don Miller Who Killed 4 Women In Lansing In The 1970s

The field will narrow after the April 19 filing deadline, when contenders must turn in 15,000 to 30,000 signatures to advance to the August primary, including at least 100 from at least half of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Preya Samsundar said voters are “counting down the days until they can finally say goodbye to Gretchen Whitmer and her reign of terror,” pointing to inflation and past coronavirus lockdowns.

The governor steered clear of mentioning partisan fights with the GOP-controlled Legislature, which blocked her proposal to increase the gasoline tax to fix roads and later fiercely opposed her COVID-19 orders that closed schools and businesses.

She emphasized how the bills she signs are bipartisan, including laws to land General Motors’ largest-ever investment, cut business taxes, boost education spending and provide $400 per-vehicle auto insurance refunds.

“Despite all the challenges, we are making real progress while the Michigan economy continues to get stronger,” she said.

MORE NEWS: Michigan Court Seeks More From Whitmer About Abortion Ban Challenge

© 2022 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.