Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and his Republican challenger Tudor Dixon clashed over abortion rights in a debate Tuesday night, as Whitmer backed a ballot referendum this fall that would change the state constitution to guarantee abortion rights.
Dixon said the referendum, if approved by voters, “would be the most sweeping abortion law in the entire country. The only place that has something similar is China and North Korea.
Whitmer fired back, “Nothing she said is true.”
The two clashed over what is called Proposal 3 — a measure put on the ballot after a petition campaign to amend the state constitution to remove Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortion without exception for cases of rape and incest. This law, which had long been dormant, was revived after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in front of a judge ruled the law unconstitutional in September.
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS released on Monday showed Whitmer leading Dixon among likely voters, 52% to 46%. Voters are 6 percentage points more likely to view Whitmer favorably than unfavorably, while Dixon’s rating is underwater by 10 points.
Whitmer’s campaign has largely focused on her support for abortion rights. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, Whitmer sued to block enforcement of the state abortion ban imposed in 1931, and she supported Proposition 3.
Dixon, a conservative commentator who is backed by the family of former education secretary Betsy DeVos and won the GOP nomination after former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, criticized Whitmer’s pandemic policies. She also delved into cultural battles, proposing a policy that would ban transgender girls from participating in sports with the gender they identify with, as well as a policy inspired by the controversial measure by Florida’s GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into law earlier this year, which critics dubbed the “don’t say gay” right.
Here are four takeaways from their debate:
Their exchange on Proposition 3 underscored the starkly divergent views on what the ballot measure would do if approved by voters. Supporters said it would not invalidate existing laws, including parental consent requirements. Opponents say it would undo virtually all existing safeguards.
“We know Proposition 3 removes parental consent. It also allows you to not have to be a doctor to perform an abortion,” Dixon said.
She argued that if approved, the ballot measure would allow abortions “up to the time of birth, for any reason, including gender selection.”
The Democratic governor said Michigan laws governing abortion rights that existed before Roe v. Wade would remain in place. She also pointed to Dixon’s comments opposing abortion rights in rape and incest cases.
“You can’t trust him on this issue. If you want to protect the rights of Roe c. Wade, vote yes on the 3rd,” Whitmer said.
The exchange showcased Dixon’s shifting approach to the issue, as she seeks to motivate conservative voters. Dixon had previously downplayed the governor’s role in the battle against abortion, arguing that the outcome of the issue will be decided by voters and that those voters could vote to guarantee abortion rights and support Dixon at the same time.
She said Tuesday evening that she would accept the will of the voters if they approved Proposition 3.
“People will decide what they want to do with abortion rights in the state of Michigan,” Dixon said.
Whitmer and Dixon each fired at each other over past election results, but did not delve into the issue of election management in one of the most important states on the presidential battleground.
The Democratic governor hit out at her Republican challenger first, noting that she sometimes adopted false theories on widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“She refuses to accept the outcome of the last election,” Whitmer said. “She is an election denier and has never, ever said that Joe Biden won this last election.”
Dixon responded with a criticism of Whitmer Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, citing his complaints about Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey in 2017, when Gilchrist ran against Winfrey for the city’s election management job and lost. a little.
“I wonder if she’s going to say she can’t show up with a Holocaust denier anymore,” Dixon said.
It’s a strategy Republicans have increasingly used in recent weeks, responding to Democratic criticism that they’ve replicated Trump’s campaign lies by citing examples of Democratic politicians, such as the Georgia gubernatorial candidate. , Stacey Abrams, dismissing past election results.
In the end, the two spoke to each other: neither responded to the other’s criticisms and the moderators did not return to the issue.
The two clashed over how to protect children from school shootings, with Dixon advocating for safer school buildings and Whitmer advocating for gun control measures.
Dixon said she wants armed security in schools, as well as a single point of entry for 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 this for 30 years. It doesn’t work,” Whitmer said.
Instead, she said, Michigan needs to enact laws requiring background checks and secure storage, as well as “red flag” laws.
“Ask yourself who is going to keep your children safe: the former district attorney with plans or a candidate with thoughts and prayers?” said Whitmer.
Dixon sought to take offense at local debates over what books are allowed in school libraries, saying “parents are outraged” by what she called “books about how to have sex.”
“If you have material in your school that is something 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 replied that Dixon was trying to “pin communities against each other.”
“It’s dangerous and it’s selfish,” she said. “We need to bring the temperature down and fix the problem to make sure parents are involved and students feel comfortable and we give them a solid education.”
Dixon replied: “We have received the response now that she will not support parents on this issue.”
And Whitmer fired back: “Do you really think books are more dangerous than guns? Do you really think that books pose a greater danger to our children than gun violence? Mrs. Dixon is trying to distract us.