Dixon clinches early win in GOP gubernatorial primary
Dixon for Governor on Facebook.
Right-wing commentator Tudor Dixon has a big lead Tuesday night in Michigan’s GOP gubernatorial primary, likely setting her up to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the Nov. 8 general election.

Dixon’s primary lead comes after a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump on Friday amid a campaign season rife with Trumpian talking points and right-wing rhetoric.

“God is good. Thank you, Michigan,” Dixon told a Grand Rapids audience of supporters around 10 p.m.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday with 39% of precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns, Dixon has amassed 40.1% of the vote.

With just 23% in around 10 p.m., Dixon took a clear lead with 40.9% of the vote, but the Michigan Republican Party already declared her the winner. The party said on Twitter at 9:08 p.m. that she was “our candidate for governor” — which Dixon later retweeted.

Some analysts had called the race for Dixon before polls closed at 9 p.m. in four western Upper Peninsula precincts.

The Associated Press called the race for Dixon at 9:41 p.m.

Garrett Soldano, the Rev. Ralph Rebandt, Ryan Kelley and Kevin Rinke participate in a GOP gubernatorial debate on WKAR’s Off the Record, July 15, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

Trailing behind are businessman Kevin Rinke with 20.9%, chiropractor Garrett Soldano with 19.2%, far-right activist Ryan Kelley with 15.6% and the Rev. Ralph Rebandt with 4.1%.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Michigan GOP abruptly canceled a watch party at a Lansing restaurant due to what spokesperson Gustavo Potela said were multiple threats to its building and staff.

Portela, who said that a bystander near the GOP party headquarters in Lansing threatened to shoot and burn the building down Tuesday morning, did not respond to a request for comment from the Advance asking whether the party has filed a police report about the alleged incidents.

Soldano conceded the race around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, telling supporters at his watch party, “I didn’t win.”

“As I have stated from the beginning, Republicans throughout the state must be focused on retiring Gretchen Whitmer,” Soldano said in a subsequent statement. “I will be casting my vote for Tudor Dixon in November. I call on all Republicans to continue fighting, and together we will defeat Gretchen Whitmer in November.”

Rinke also conceded in a Twitter statement.

“While tonight’s results are not what we had hoped for, the people of Michigan have decided on another candidate, and I want to congratulate @TudorDixon on her victory,” Rinke wrote. “My hope for the state of Michigan remains unchanged and I look forward to continuing our family’s work of bettering the state we love so much.”

During her victory speech, Dixon thanked Rinke, Soldano, Kelley and Rebandt for “running a very spirited campaign.” She spent much of her speech railing against Whitmer for everything from COVID-19 health policies to water issues in Benton Harbor.

“This is going to be an epic battle between a conservative businesswoman and mother, and a far-left birthing parent and career politician,” Dixon said.

Whitmer is a mother of two daughters. The “birthing parent” remark was ostensibly meant to be a jab at some on the left, including President Joe Biden, who have started to embrace more gender-neutral terms as a move toward LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

In a statement, Whitmer said Dixon has “made clear that she will drag Michigan backwards.”

“Dixon’s plans to ban abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the mother and throw nurses in jail, gut funding for public education, reverse progress rebuilding Michigan’s infrastructure and sow district in our democracy are dangerous for Michigan women and families,” Whitmer continued.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the State of the State address, Jan. 29, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Dixon is one of just five GOP gubernatorial candidates to make it onto the Aug. 2 ballot, after the state Bureau of Elections (BOE) kicked off five more gubernatorial hopefuls whose signature collecting campaigns were marred with fraud.

Financial adviser Michael Markey, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businesswoman Donna Brandenburg, self-described “quality guru” Perry Johnson and Michigan State Police Capt. Michael Brown did not make it onto the ballot.

Dixon has been routinely criticized by her fellow GOP contenders for being “establishment,” as she has landed the endorsement and financial backing — to the tune of about $1 million — of the wealthy and politically influential DeVos family.

She also gained endorsements from GOP former Michigan Gov. John Engler, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), as well as powerful right-wing groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Right to Life of Michigan.

While other candidates vied for the Trump endorsement, Dixon was the only GOP gubernatorial candidate Trump mentioned by name during an April rally in Michigan. Trump praised her again during a fundraiser for Dixon in February.

All candidates have parroted Trump’s repeated lie that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Most, including Dixon, have falsely claimed that the election was stolen from Trump.

“Tonight we are dismayed to see the GOP celebrate and validate the gubernatorial candidacy of a well-known election denier, who has repeatedly shown she is a danger to our democracy,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of the nonpartisan group Voters Not Politicians.

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Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.