2022 Michigan gubernatorial debate: Whitmer, Dixon’s 4 takeaways from the race


Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon clashed over abortion rights Tuesday night, with Whitmer sponsoring a referendum vote this fall that would amend the state constitution to guarantee abortion rights.

Dixon said the referendum, if approved by voters, would be “the most radical abortion law in the entire country. The only place that has something similar is China and North Korea.’

Whitmer replied, “What he said is not true.”

The two were clashing over what’s known as Proposition 3, after a petition on the ballot to amend the state constitution to repeal Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortion, with no exceptions for rape and incest. That long-dormant law was upheld by the Supreme Court in Roe v. It was resurrected after the decision that overturned Wade, before a judge ruled the law unconstitutional in September.

Tuesday’s debate was the second between Whitmer and Dixon, with the polls already underway two weeks before Election Day.

A CNN poll released Monday by SSRS showed Whitmer leading Dixon among likely voters, 52 percent to 46 percent. Voters are 6 percentage points more likely to view Whitmer more favorably than unfavorably, while Dixon’s rating is submerged by 10 points.

Whitmer’s campaign has focused largely on support for abortion rights. The US Supreme Court in Roe v. After Wade was overturned, Whitmer sued to block enforcement of the state’s 1931 abortion ban, and has supported Proposition 3.

Dixon, a conservative commentator backed by the family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and who won the GOP nomination after the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, has criticized Whitmer’s pandemic policies. He has also leaned into cultural battles, proposing a policy that would ban transgender girls from playing sports with the gender they identify with, modeled after the controversial measure Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law earlier this year. critics called it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Here are four takeaways from their discussion:

The exchange on Proposition 3 underscored the very different views voters would have on the ballot measure if approved. Supporters have said it will not overturn existing laws, including parental consent requirements. Opponents say it would nullify nearly all existing guardrails.

“We know that Proposition 3 removes parental consent. Also, to not have to be a doctor to get an abortion,” said Dixon.

If passed, he argued, the ballot measure would allow abortion “up to the time of birth for any reason, including sex selection.”

The Democratic governor said Roe v. Michigan’s laws governing abortion rights that existed before Wade’s reversal would remain in effect. He also noted Dixon’s comments against abortion rights in cases of rape and incest.

“You can’t trust him on this issue. If you want to protect Roe v. Wade rights, vote yes on the 3rd,” Whitmer said.

The exchange showed Dixon’s changing approach to the issue as he seeks to motivate conservative voters. Dixon has previously downplayed the governor’s role in the abortion fight, arguing that the outcome of the case will be decided by voters and that those voters can vote to guarantee abortion rights while supporting Dixon.

He said Tuesday night that he would accept the will of the voters if they pass Proposition 3.

“People will decide what they want to do about abortion rights in the state of Michigan,” Dixon said.

Whitmer and Dixon took shots at each other over past election results, but they didn’t exactly delve into how the election is handled in one of the most important presidential states.

The Democratic governor first hit out at his Republican opponent, saying he had embraced false theories about widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

“He refuses to accept the outcome of the last election,” Whitmer said. “He’s an election denier and he’s never said that Joe Biden won this last election.”

Dixon responded with criticism of Whitmer’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist, citing his complaints about Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey in 2017, when Gilchrist ran against Winfrey for the city’s election management position and narrowly lost.

“I’m wondering if he’s going to say he can’t run anymore with an election denialist,” Dixon said.

It’s a strategy Republicans have increasingly used in recent weeks, responding to Democratic criticism that they have parodied Trump’s election lies, pointing to examples of Democratic politicians, such as Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, ignoring the results of past elections.

In the end, the two spoke past each other: neither engaged in the other’s criticism, and the moderators did not return to the topic.

The two clashed over how to protect children from school shootings, with Dixon advocating for more security in school buildings and Whitmer advocating for gun control measures.

Dixon said he wants armed security at schools, as well as a single point of entry into school buildings.

“We need an Office of Safe Schools, like states like Florida, to make sure that’s a top priority,” Dixon said.

“We have been trying to do this for 30 years. It doesn’t work,” Whitmer said.

Instead, he said, Michigan should enact laws requiring background checks and secure storage, as well as “red flag” laws.

“Ask yourself, who will keep your children safe: a former prosecutor with plans, or a candidate with thoughts and prayers?” Whitmer said.

Dixon tried to take offense to local debates about what books are allowed in school libraries, saying “parents are angry” about “books that describe how to have sex”.

“If you have material in your school that you can’t read to a kid at a bus stop because you’d be arrested for being pornographic, then it shouldn’t be in a classroom,” Dixon said.

Whitmer countered that Dixon was trying to “pit communities against each other.”

“It’s dangerous and it’s selfish,” he said. “We need to lower the temperature and solve the problem so that the parents are involved and the students feel comfortable and we’re providing a solid education.”

Dixon replied, “We have now received a response that he will not be with the parents on this matter.”

And Whitmer replied, “Do you really think books are more dangerous than guns? Do you really think that books are more dangerous to our children than gun violence? Mrs. Dixon is trying to distract us.