Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) is set to face off against Tudor Dixon (right) in the General Election. (Courtesy)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) is set to face off against Tudor Dixon (right) in the General Election. (Courtesy)

A Data For Progress/Courier Newsroom poll has found glaring gaps between the Republican nominee’s platform and voters’ views.

LANSING—With a victory in Tuesday night’s primaries, businesswoman and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon has secured a place on the ballot in November’s General Election as the Republican nominee for governor, but new polling data suggest that her campaign’s values could be at odds with Michigan voters.

Dixon’s campaign prioritizes the economy and education–a match for Michiganders, who also share those concerns. However, on key policy points, Dixon has embraced unpopular views on schools, elections, guns, and abortion that echo of the views espoused by former President Donald Trump, who endorsed her, and Michigan schools power-player Betsy DeVos, who’s been a key backer of Dixon’s campaign. 

A recent Data For Progress/Courier Newsroom poll asking 673 likely voters in Michigan—a mix of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—about their top issues in this year’s midterm election cycle revealed that voters are looking for real answers about inflation, abortion, and crime. It also reflects that election conspiracy theories could turn off large swaths of Republican and independent voters and that Democrats are highly motivated by the issue of reproductive rights.

The true test of Dixon’s agenda will come in the November General Election against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic nominee. 

Here’s a breakdown of where Dixon and Whitmer stand on the issues:

Inflation

Sixty-eight percent of poll respondents labeled inflation as one of their top three priorities in the 2022 elections.

With inflation peaking at a 40-year high, both Democrats and Republicans have said that balancing out the economy is a priority. But deals to provide relief, at least so far, have only stagnated in Lansing. 

Whitmer has supported suspending the state’s 6% sales tax on gas to directly reduce the price consumers pay at the pump, but she’s so far been unable to strike a deal with the Republican-led legislature. Republicans have also proposed eliminating the state’s separate gas tax, which is 27 cents per gallon, but Whitmer vetoed the measure, saying doing so would mean pausing road repair projects already underway.

Under Whitmer, the state has run a balanced budget the last two years, flipping a projected $3 billion deficit into a $7 billion surplus heading into the next fiscal year. After striking a deal for a new budget, Whitmer has also advocated for more direct help to Michiganders, including $500 tax rebates to help with inflation and rolling back taxes for retirees and lower-income families.

Dixon has railed against inflation rates, pinning blame almost exclusively on Whitmer and Biden. But details of how she plans to address the Michigan economy are still largely unclear. 

Dixon has proposed eliminating Michigan’s personal income tax, which accounts for 30% of the state’s tax revenue and funds essentially every government operation, including schools. She has also pledged to cut 40% of the state’s “regulatory code,” meaning she’d seek to remove everything from environmental to oversight requirements for private businesses. Exactly what she’d look to cut isn’t immediately clear. Dixon has also taken aim at corporate welfare, railing against tax cuts given to some of Michigan’s biggest companies. Dixon has said increased tax revenue generated from out-of-state tourists could make up for lost funds, though not elaborating on how.

Abortion

In the poll, 43% of respondents said if a candidate supported an abortion ban, that would be a “dealbreaker” for them. Thirty-four percent of poll respondents labeled abortion as one of their top three priorities in the 2022 elections.

The future of abortion access in Michigan is largely still to be decided, based on a quickly moving court case and a public vote on November’s ballot to enshrine abortion as a constitutionally protected right. For now, abortion care is still legal in all 83 counties.

A former Ingham County prosecutor, Whitmer has played a significant role in protecting reproductive rights. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Whitmer filed a complaint seeking clarity on if the right to an abortion existed in the state’s constitution under the due process clause

Whitmer also requested an expedited review of the case from the state Supreme Court, which has yet to take it up. In conjunction with a Planned Parenthood case that so far prevents enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, Whitmer’s legal action set up a firewall against the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Recently, a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals allowed county prosecutors to uphold the 1931 ban and prosecute abortion providers at-will, but that ruling is on hold for at least two more weeks because the judge granted Whitmer’s request for a temporary restraining order.

Dixon is opposed to the right to an abortion in nearly all cases, and once noted that she would be in favor of requiring a 14-year-old who was raped by her uncle to carry a pregnancy to term. Following that interview with Charlie LeDuff, Dixon said that abortions shield predators from prosecution, citing a case where teenagers don’t need to seek parental permission to receive an abortion. 

Dixon has said there’s a difference between the “health of the mother” and “life of the mother.” Most recently, she said abortion should be allowed to save the life of the mother—the only exception to the 1931 ban that she supports.  

Crime

Thirty-one percent of poll respondents labeled crime as one of their top three priorities in the 2022 elections.

Nationally, homicides have spiked 30% during the pandemic

As governor, Whitmer has passed alternative forms of rehabilitation, like jobs courts for nonviolent, low-level offenders, as well as a bipartisan Clean Slate act to help formerly incarcerated people find jobs and housing. She also issued an executive directive aimed at reducing gun violence by identifying existing federal funds in the state budget. Her order also created a new Community Violence Intervention Office within the Michigan State Police, and directed the State Police to coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services to report violent crimes.

Whitmer has also supported popular gun safety legislation, like “red flag” laws to prevent people who pose a risk to themselves or others from possessing guns. But like other attempts to regulate guns, those laws have stalled in the Republican-controlled state Legislature. 

Dixon identifies as a “back-the-blue” candidate, despite advertisements claiming she’d defund police orgainizations. After a Grand Rapids police officer shot and killed 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya during a struggle, Dixon sided with the officer, who is charged with second-degree murder. An advertisement aired by the Democratic Governors Association attacked Dixon for her budget plan, claiming it would threaten thousands of law enforcement jobs by stripping money from the police. Dixon’s attorney has since asked to have the ad taken off air, labeling the claim as “false and defamatory.” In a roundtable discussion at the Police Officers Association of Michigan headquarters, Dixon rejected the ads and said she wants it easier to recruit police officers to Michigan. Dixon said she wants armed security in schools in place of “diversity/equity/inclusion” consultants.

Dixon has also proposed legislation to make it a crime for adults to bring minors to drag queen events and supported similar Republican-led bills to open up schools that expose children to drag. There is no evidence of Michigan schools putting on drag events, Republicans said.

Education

Sixty-eight percent of poll respondents believe public schools are vital—yet underfunded.

Whitmer has worked with Republican lawmakers to increase per-pupil funding for Michigan’s public schools. State leaders called Whitmer’s 2021 budget the biggest investment in schools in Michigan’s history—including an education budget that closed a long-standing funding gap between wealthy and poor districts

Recently, Whitmer has pushed for districts to maintain in-person instruction after many schools went online at the outset of the pandemic. Recent school budgets have also made record investments in mental health and set aside money to repair deteriorating infrastructure within schools, as well as help patch the teacher shortage that Michigan faces.

For the entirety of her campaign, Dixon has supported shifting public money to private and charter schools, which is currently unconstitutional in Michigan. Dixon came out as the preferred choice of the former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family, who have long backed vouchers, charter schools, and private schools at the expense of public school funding. The Michigan Education Association, Michigan Board of Education, and Michigan Alliance for Families, an advocacy group for students who require special education, oppose these plans.  

Schools have been a central part of Dixon’s campaign. She has also promised to make state funding available for one-on-one tutoring in reading and math; ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports; mandate that schools publish all curriculum and instructional materials online so that parents can review materials; prevent schools from teaching about “anti-American” theories and critical race theory (there is no evidence of critical race theory being taught in Michigan’s public schools); and make it a crime to have drag shows in schools—which is also not happening.

Election Integrity

Forty-three percent of poll respondents would choose to vote against a candidate who tried to overturn the results of an election.

Whitmer has supported efforts to register more Michiganders to vote. In May, she signed an executive directive that instructed state agencies to reach more citizens about signing up to vote. The governor has also vetoed legislative efforts to perpetuate the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and restrict polling places. Put simply: She doesn’t sign onto election fraud conspiracy theories.

Dixon has backed Trump in claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, though not going as far as other GOP candidates. She has also supported restrictions that would make it more difficult to vote—including voter ID laws that would be the “strongest in the country.” She has supported laws that would ban absentee ballot dropboxes, as well as prohibit volunteered polling spaces (like churches and schools) and external donations to support election operations. 

Only 11% of respondents said that a candidate’s involvement in election conspiracy issues was a top three issue for them. Interestingly, more Republican than Democratic voters ranked it as a priority.