MDP MEMO | The Volatile, Unsettled, and Almost Over Republican Gubernatorial Primary

To: Interested Parties
From: Lavora Barnes, Michigan Democratic Party Chair

Just under two months until the August primary, Republicans are facing complete “upheaval” with half of the field disqualified from appearing on the ballot after submitting tens of thousands of forged signatures – including from deceased voters. In a field “distinguished by its mediocrity… what’s left is not much” with out-of-touch millionaire Kevin Rinke, online commentator and conspiracy theorist Tudor Dixon, snake oil salesman Garrett Soldano, insurrectionist Ryan Kelley, and pastor Ralph Rebandt now vying for the nomination. 

The “unprecedented” shakeup has “rocked the governor’s race” and left Republicans with an unknown, untested, and wrong-for-Michigan field they will have to try and coalesce voters around after a brutal and damaging primary:

  1. The Ballot Petition Scandal Caught the Already Disorganized MIGOP Flat-Footed

The disqualification of two leading candidates – James Craig and Perry Johnson – has underscored how chaotic and disorganized Michigan Republicans are heading into a crucial late summer primary. Michiganders are now left with unknown, radical candidates who have shown no ability to raise the resources needed to run an effective campaign. 

To make matters worse for Republican leadership as they struggle to coalesce around a candidate, James Craig is mulling a write-in campaign that would only further ensure the race stays unsettled through August 2nd. Equally unwilling to accept the consequences, Johnson is continuing to drag his battle through the courts. This week, the quality ‘guru’ asked a federal judge to order the Secretary of State’s office to “immediately cease the printing of August 2022 primary ballots.”

The field remains without a clear frontrunner, and with absentee voting beginning in a little over two weeks, candidates will be forced to distinguish themselves with negative attacks, leaving the eventual nominee damaged entering the general election.

  1. The Untested Field Remains Radical and Unsettled

There is little daylight between the five radical candidates who will appear on the ballot, a key point highlighted over three chaotic debates where they broadcasted their overlapping, wrong-for-Michigan agendas. 

Tudor Dixon

Recently, the DeVos family aligned themselves and their millions behind Tudor Dixon, who has spent the majority of her campaign selling out to gain their endorsement by touting her support for plans to decimate public schools through every available avenue, such as repealing Michigan’s constitutional ban on using public money for private education and backing a voucher scheme that could siphon $500 million from public schools every year. Dixon also said she “absolutely” backed a tax plan that would slash $3.5 billion from public schools, among other key services like law enforcement and infrastructure. 

Additionally, her rabid anti-choice extremism that makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother – on par with the rest of the field – earned her an endorsement from Right to Life Michigan, “the state’s most prominent anti-abortion group.” The group has actively campaigned for Michigan to have the strictest abortion ban in the nation. Dixon has gone so far as to push bizarre conspiracy theories that Planned Parenthood’s “business model” involves teaching kids sex-ed so that they make more money off of abortions in high school.

Kevin Rinke

With Perry Johnson’s removal from the ballot, Kevin Rinke is now the only candidate dominating the airwaves with his self-funded millions. Locked in a bitter race with his opponents, his campaign has been defined by his increasing willingness to embrace conspiracy theories – each more outlandish than the last. Right now, he’s out with a blatantly false TV ad that spreads more baseless lies about the 2020 election, after claiming without evidence at the most recent that “there has been fraud in every election.”

However, it’s Rinke’s backwards budget plan that particularly exposes how much he intends to throw Michigan families under the bus while risking our economic recovery, as he continues pushing his “piss-poor public policy proposal” that would slash billions from public schools, law enforcement, health departments, transportation and infrastructure. The used Toyota salesman continues to dodge questions about which of Michigan’s basic services he would cut, instead deferring to the legislature — a deflection that completely abandons the most entry-level understanding of how the government he’s running to lead actually works. 

Rinke has based his campaign on his business record, which is rife with many allegations of sexual and racial harassment stemming from the toxic workplace environment he fostered across his dealerships before selling off the family business he inherited.

Garrett Soldano

Garrett Soldano has earned his admiration among the Michigan Republican grassroots by spewing anti-vaxx conspiracies and refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election – a fact-bankrupt crusade that shows no signs of stopping. One of his bigger campaign claims to infamy was callously proclaiming that women who are raped should not be able to have abortions because “God put them in this moment” and it would make them “heroic.”

Not only does he also want to defund public education from K-5 to post-graduate as part of his dangerous and indiscriminate across-the-board budget cuts, Soldano has no interest in making schools safe learning environments. He recently stated America doesn’t have a gun problem, instead baselessly placing the blame on a vague “culture problem,” mental health, and social media. Like the others, he has advocated for arming people in school, including teachers, and implementing one point of entry. 

  1. Abortion Will Be a Major Factor Through November 

With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, it’s difficult to overstate how much of an impact the ruling will have on Michigan. Millions of women and families would have their reproductive freedom stripped from them as the state reverts back to a currently dormant, broad abortion ban that that criminalizes abortion, makes felons out of reproductive health care providers, and provides no exceptions for rape or incest. 

On par with the rest of America, Michiganders don’t want to see the right to an abortion infringed upon. Despite this fact, all five candidates have embraced extreme anti-choice stances, eagerly anticipated the 1931 near-total ban’s return, and pledged to sign new anti-choice legislation into law if Governor Whitmer’s challenge to deem it unconstitutional is successful. 

Michiganders can plainly see the stark contrast in front of them, which will remain front of mind as they step into the ballot box this November. 

With less than two months before the August 2nd primary, MDP will continue holding the remaining five Republicans equally accountable in this volatile and unsettled field. 

  1. Governor Whitmer is Continuing to Secure a Strong Future for Michigan

While the Republican gubernatorial field remains stuck in the past, eager for the return of 90-year-old bans and disinvestment of infrastructure, education and economic development, Governor Whitmer is showing working families that she’s focused on keeping Michigan first for decades to come.

Last week, she took her forward-thinking vision to the Mackinac Policy Conference, spelling out the steps she’s taking today to ensure Michigan can serve as the “manufacturing hub of the future” through 2100. Michigan is already reaping benefits in real time, between major investments in the state from GM, LG Energy Solution, and Ford that have brought billions into our state and created thousands of good-paying jobs thanks to Whitmer’s leadership.

But it’s not just the future of the auto industry that Whitmer is working to secure. During her keynote on the island, she renewed her efforts to make substantial investments in future generations of our workforce through public education and school infrastructure. On track to surpass her previous goal of having 60% of Michiganders equipped with a postsecondary degree or skills certificate by 2030, Whitmer proposed moving the benchmark up to 90% by 2060.

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