Several little-known Michigan conservatives will compete for the Republican nomination on Tuesday to take on Democratic administration Gretchen Whitmer as the power struggle over the 2020 election has split the party and threatens to hinder the GOP’s efforts in the battlefield state.
Many of the five hopeful have personal luggage who may pose a challenge in a general election, including a candidate who sued for his role in the Capitol uprising. None of the five has held public office, and their inability thus far to raise money to compete with Whitmer’s multimillion-dollar campaign bill has dashed some Republicans’ once-high hopes of overthrowing the incumbent first term.
“To be really blunt in a historical context, this isn’t the Republican A game,” said Richard Czuba, a longtime Michigan researcher.
Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed Tudor Dixonwhich could help her get out of a pack of four candidates that has been nearly right in the polls in recent weeks, following other top candidates did not pass the vote.
Dixon is a former steel industry executive who also hosted a conservative program on a streaming channel and once appeared in low-budget zombie movies in what her campaign described as an “admittedly lame” hobby. She also has the support of the prominent Michigan Republican family of Betsy DeVos, who was critical of Trump after the January 6, 2021 riots, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and several anti-abortion groups.
Trump’s endorsement sparked fresh criticism from other candidates, who have labeled Dixon the “established” choice. They include broker Ryan Kelley, who: pleaded not guilty to crimes in the Capitol riots; chiropractor Garrett Soldano; and former car dealership owner Kevin Rinke. Pastor Ralph Rebandt also runs.
In a Facebook video following Trump’s approval, Soldano called Dixon a “vulnerable RINO” in name only to the Republican. He predicted he will win on Tuesday with the help of a “base army” that gathered as Soldano staged protests against Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“We will not disappear without a fight. This is our party. This is our state. This is our country,” Soldano said.
Controversial primaries aren’t new, but animosity seems to have increased in places this year as Republicans split over whether to rescind the 2020 election or look ahead, including the 2024 presidential race. disagreement takes place in other battlefields such as Pennsylvania, where: dr. Mehmet Oz won a bitter Senate primaries with a statewide recount.
The divide was particularly public and outspoken in Michigan, where Trump has pushed the lie that the 2020 election has been stolen from him and has many candidates endorsed who support him – also for Secretary of State and Attorney General – with a view to a possible bid in 2024.
Michigan is also one of the states where subpoenas have been issued “false voters” who filed paperwork saying that Trump, not Joe Biden, won the state election.
Trump lost Michigan by about 154,000 votes in 2020, and multiple audits and courts — as well as an investigation by the Republican-led state senate — have confirmed that outcome.
Yet all GOP governor candidates say fraud was committed in 2020, and everyone but Rinke has said they believe Trump’s election was stolen. In a recent debate, Soldano said Trump is “still my president.”
Dixon raised her hand during a debate when candidates were asked which of them believes the election was stolen. She has been less explicit in recent weeks, criticized Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, saying on Fox News Sunday: “We need to make sure our elections are secure and that what happened in 2020 doesn’t happen again.”
Restrictions Whitmer placed on fighting COVID-19 were a factor for all candidates in the decision to enter the race. Kelley staged demonstrations against the governor, including one where armed paramilitary groups broke into the Michigan Statehouse.
On other counts, the candidates hold many similar positions that could be a tough sell for independent voters deciding Michigan elections.
All candidates are against abortion, with Dixon, Kelley, Rinke and Soldano allowing exceptions to save the mother’s life. Rinke also believes that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
In terms of education, the candidates agreed they would stop teaching “critical race theory” in Michigan public schools. Dixon wants all districts to post teaching materials and curriculum online for parents to review and says families should be able to use state funds per student for private schools, homeschooling or other educational institutions of their choice. Kelley said that on his first day as governor, he would eliminate any diversity, equality and inclusion positions in Michigan schools.
Rinke wants to eliminate Michigan’s personal income tax, though he didn’t outline how he would account for the $11 billion in lost revenue it would mean for the state.
Trump’s late-stage endorsement of Dixon could land him a win, though he’s also experienced: some notable defeats.