GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Tudor Dixon has won Michigan’s Republican nomination for governor, NBC News Projects, emerging from one of the most tumultuous primary elections of the year in a state where the general election will have a major impact on the next presidential race.
The former conservative media personality, who secured confirmation from former President Donald Trump last week, will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was renamed unanimously on Tuesday.
Early results placed Dixon ahead of four competitors including chiropractor Garrett Soldano; Kevin Rinke, a former Detroit-area auto dealer who loaned his campaign $10 million; and Ryan Kelley, a real estate agent and right-wing activist who was a brief frontrunner after his arrest on felony charges of involvement in the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
Speaking to supporters at a hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, Dixon took sharp aim at Whitmer. She has repeatedly criticized the governor’s lockdown orders in the early days of Covid while pushing for her own “family-friendly” agenda.
“Now is our chance to really hold Gretchen Whitmer responsible for the pain she has caused each of us over the past four years,” Dixon said.
In an emailed statement after the race was announced, Whitmer campaign spokeswoman Maeve Coyle said Dixon “will pull Michigan backwards.”
“While Dixon has focused her campaign on garnering support from special interests and political insiders, Gov. Whitmer has worked to garner support from Michiganders by doing what she’s always done: working with everyone to get things done.” , added Coyle.
Dixon’s victory is in part a testament to the power of the DeVos family, kingmakers in Michigan politics, who supported and helped fund an aligned super PAC. And her victory gives Trump another ally within governor’s reach and the authority to confirm election results.
Trump continues to falsely claim that he had a second term stolen from him in 2020 and teases another run in 2024. At debates, Dixon responded affirmative when asked if she believed Trump had won Michigan, which was narrowly accorded to President Joe Biden. She has also embraced debunked theories that fraud and unfavorable efforts by Democratic officials led to Biden’s election.
But Dixon’s rhetoric has been less consistent and less forceful than claims made by other Trump allies in Michigan and across the country. In the closing days of the race, their opponents questioned their loyalty to the former President and seized a Fox News Sunday interview in which Dixon dodged when asked if she believed the 2020 election was stolen.
After casting her vote Tuesday morning near her home in western Michigan, Dixon similarly evaded a reporter’s request to clarify her position.
“You know what? Today I think that’s not an appropriate question,” Dixon replied, adding that she was focused on her own choice. “We’ve answered that a couple of times.”
Dixon thanked each of her opponents by name on Tuesday night.
“I want to thank them,” she said, “for their dedication in this effort to improve this condition.”
Dixon can count on a national buy-in in her bid to unseat Whitmer. The Republican Governors Association, which has been wary of reaching out to other GOP candidates this year, was quick to congratulate her.
“We couldn’t be more excited to support Tudor Dixon this fall to end Whitmer’s disastrous tenure,” said the group’s co-chairs, Govs. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska said in an emailed statement.
In a year when chaotic GOP primaries were hardly uncommon, Michigan offered more chaos than most — a crowded field of election deniers, wealthy businessmen throwing their money around, a petition signature scandal, a Jan. 6 candidate arrested for impeachment (Kelley has pleaded not guilty), a seven-figure publicity effort by national Democrats to stem Dixon’s momentum, and a late Trump endorsement that split the party.
Dixon seemed on track to earn the nomination before Trump even got involved. Having entered the race as an unknown political force with low polls and little money, she capitalized on the missteps of better-placed rivals.
Her opponents — even before, but especially after, her evasive Fox News interview — had argued that DeVos endorsement ties Dixon to the establishment and, in the case of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a Trump traitor who has resigned from his cabinet after blaming him for the January 6 deadly violence. The DeVos-funded super PAC gave Dixon air cover and spent more than $2.5 million on ads, according to ad-tracking firm AdImpact. Dixon only spent $118,000.
Rinke set aside more than $1 million advertising this linked Dixon to DeVos and other GOP characters who were portrayed as RINOs or Republicans in name only. Soldano, who had built a loyal following through protests against Whitmer’s Covid policies, regularly attacked Dixon’s establishment patrons during debates.
The GOP’s infighting and meanness could fester into the fall. Soldano, in an interview with NBC News on Sunday after a campaign rally in Warren, said he would support Dixon if she won the primary, but would do little to rouse his ardent supporters to anyone other than himself.
“It’s definitely broken right now,” Soldano said of the party.
Despite efforts to portray them as an insufficiently conservative establishment tool, Dixon projects a uncompromising anti-abortion stance that Democrats have seized upon to portray her as an extremist. (Dixon prefers exceptions only when the mother’s life is in danger.) She prefers phase out the state’s personal income tax and often talks about it “Parents’ Rights” in education — a front of culture wars being waged by GOP candidates across the country amid battles over the appropriateness of teaching students about racism and sexual orientation. She has also attacked the use of gender-neutral language as part of a “war on women”.
Dixon, Trump told listeners at a brief telephone “rally” he hosted for them Monday night, was “on the front lines of the fight against the left-wing indoctrination of our children.”
In a statement, Michigan Democratic Party leader Lavora Barnes vowed to “continue to hold Dixon accountable for her disastrous plans and baseless conspiracy theories.”
Few would have predicted Dixon’s rise. Before breaking into conservative media, she had worked as an actress in several low-budget films and for her family’s steel company.
Whitmer, a rising national star and frequent object of Trump’s wrath, considered drawing a celebrity opponent. Far better-known prospects, including two-time Senate candidate John James and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, were brought up as opportunities but stayed out of the running. The GOP establishment, which saw no breakthrough star under Dixon and the other declared candidates, responded with enthusiasm when James Craig retired as Detroit police chief last year to start a run.
However, Dixon had a few things for her. She had programs hosted on The real voice of America, the network that also airs former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s right-wing talk show, and has made friends close to the former president. But it wasn’t until other campaigns imploded that her fortunes began to improve. Craig and another frontrunner, self-financing businessman Perry Johnson, were disqualified for allegedly submitting fraudulent petition signatures.
It was around this time that the DeVoses made their fondness for Dixon known. Eventually, the ads run by the super PAC they sponsored soon began to take hold, propelling Dixon to the top in polls.
“I’m tough, my friends,” Dixon said as she wrapped up her victory speech on Tuesday night. And I’m just getting started.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/tudor-dixon-wins-michigan-gop-primary-governor-rcna40659 Tudor Dixon wins GOP nomination for Michigan governor, projects NBC News