Press Roundup: It Was Another Messy Debate in the Republican Gubernatorial Primary

Last night, Kevin Rinke, Ryan Kelley, Garrett Soldano, and Tudor Dixon gathered in Grand Rapids to debate for the fifth time this cycle. With the primary less than four weeks away, it was a contentious affair that solidified for Michigan working families that every Republican left on the ballot is pushing a dangerous agenda to eliminate reproductive freedom and kneecap the state’s ability to fund law enforcement and public education while continuing to repair our roads and bridges.

See below for excerpts from Michigan press.

There Was Generally Little Daylight Between Gubernatorial Republicans’ Wrong-for-Michigan Agendas

Bridge Michigan: All four criticized gun control proposals to curb mass shootings, said they support a statewide abortion ban with only limited exceptions, praised former President Donald Trump and criticized Whitmer, including emergency orders she issued to temporarily shut down businesses early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

WWMT: When it came to policy discussions during Wednesday’s debate, there were few surprises. Across all candidates, there’s agreement on cutting taxes, limiting access to abortion in nearly all circumstances, and questioning the results and processes of the 2020 presidential election.

MLive: All the candidates made clear that taxes would be cut, regulations repealed and oversight veiled as they sparred over how much, when, and how in an auditorium on Grand Valley State University’s campus. 

Kevin Rinke Came Under Fire for Pushing a Plan to Drastically Shrink Michigan’s Budget Without Specifying Which Critical Services He Would Cut – Just Like the Rest of the Field

Detroit Free Press: But like Kelley, the candidates lacked specifics on what spending they would cut. Soldano said he would subject the state budget to “forensic accounting,” but has not specified what cuts he would make, other than making significant cuts to spending on higher education. […]

Gongwer: […] Mr. Rinke had previously proposed the elimination of the state’s income tax, of which those who watch the state’s budget closely said would be catastrophic for funding on things like public schools. Still, Mr. Rinke said that was his main tool to offer tax relief should he be elected. Ms. Dixon and Mr. Soldano both called that a tough lift and proposed instead to slowly chip away at the state’s income tax while it looks for replacement revenue. Eventually, the pair said in response to Mr. Rinke, the gas tax could be eliminated but not all at once. […]

Every Candidate on Stage Refused to Support Even the Most Basic Measures to Prevent Gun Violence 

Detroit Free Press: None of the four Republican candidates for governor of Michigan endorsed additional gun control measures or “red flag” laws during a debate in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, despite a recent rash of mass shootings around the nation, including one at a Fourth of July parade near Chicago that killed seven people. […]

“We don’t sell military weapons at gun stores,” [Rinke] said, without elaborating on how weapons such as AR-15 rifles, which are sold throughout the U.S., are not military-style weapons. […]

Gongwer: Mr. Kelley said he also supports letting anyone carry a concealed pistol without a license and quipped that criminals don’t follow laws in general, so why would they in the face of gun legislation – a common argument in the gun control debate, at least on the Republican side of the aisle. He also claimed the Democrats were soft on crime without much more exposition.

Bridge Michigan: All four criticized gun control proposals to curb mass shootings…

WXYZ: And in the wake of more recent mass shootings and talks about gun legislation, Rinke supported the right to carry a weapon, and Kelley said it would be a part of his 100-day plan “to bring constitutional carry to the state of Michigan.”

“We do not have a gun problem. If we had a gun problem, then the gun restrictions in New York and Illinois would’ve worked,” Soldano said.

Conspiracy Theorist Tudor Dixon Faced Questions from the Field About Her Special Interest Ties and “Lip Service”

Bridge Michigan: […] In one tense exchange, Mattawan chiropractor Garrett Soldano attacked Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores, arguing the conservative media personality is “bought and paid for” because she has been endorsed by “the DeVos empire.” […]

Dixon, who touts aggressively conservative policies and is endorsed by the powerful DeVos family, countered by suggesting Soldano sought their backing too by appearing at the same business gathering where she met the family. […]

MIRS: Kelley tried to attack Dixon regarding references to diversity, equity and inclusion among her academic proposals and putting “experimental vaccines” in children. He also made a quip about being the only one who wasn’t invited to talk with the DeVos family.

9 & 10 News: […] The gloves are off. The clock is ticking and the Republican candidates for governor are feeling it as each debate gets more aggressive. Different strategies taken, like businessman Rinke touting his leadership. […]

To the grassroots candidate, Soldano, taking it to Dixon, the candidate endorsed by many, including the powerful DeVos family, the namesake of the building the debate was held.

“You’re backed by the establishment. You’re backed by the DeVos Empire and I think, as Michiganders, we’re sick and tired of the career politicians,” said Soldano during the debate, “These establishments having these controls over all of us and having somebody’s administration bought and paid for which yours is, Mrs. Dixon.”

“We just had a statewide audience calling out these other candidates who continue to give lip service and are bought and paid for by the establishment,” he added afterward. […]

Click on Detroit: […] You can tell the August primary election is close by the change in tone at Wednesday night’s GOP debate; The candidates have all been at various forums and debates together, but candidates are now starting to go on the attack. […]

Both Garrett Soldano and Ryan Kelley criticized Dixon to the point she quipped, “Ryan seems very interested in my campaign tonight.” […]

WXYZ: […] During a rebuttal toward Dixon, Soldano said, “I’m glad you’re finally working with the Legislature because I’ve been working with the Legislature and holding them accountable for the last two years and three months. Again, we’re doing more than just giving lip service.”

“I thought you thought they were RINOS and you couldn’t work with them?” Dixon said. […]

Gongwer: Mr. Soldano accused each of the candidates for offering nothing more than lip service on the issue of abortion, and while he was not endorsed by Right to Life, he was just as unapologetically anti-abortion as Ms. Dixon. […]

Ryan Kelley Touted The Multiple Federal Criminal Charges Stemming from His Participation in the Violent Insurrection as a Conservative Bonafide

9 & 10 News: Kelley touted the action in his words. The man arrested by the FBI, scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, for his role in the January 6 riot in Washington DC,. his campaign using it as a credibility statement rather than a black eye.

“I think that we’ve already separated the candidates quite a bit,” said Kelley afterward, “Based on actions and fighting for freedom and liberty and based on actions as a candidate as well.”

WWMT: […] During Wednesday’s debate, candidates jockeyed to take the spotlight and give themselves a name among the many still-undecided voters. […]

Kelley also did not shy away from his June arrest and his ongoing federal charges, all connected to his presence at the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“I believe there’s already been a big separation there – I think we’ve seen from the actions of the candidates and who is truly is standing on the values that they believe in,” said Kelley. […]

All Candidates Echoed the Baseless Election Conspiracy Theories They Have Been Spewing All Cycle

Click on Detroit: When asked about whether they believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, only Kelley and Soldano said yes, it was stolen. Dixon and Rinke wouldn’t commit to those words but did say they believed in unsubstantiated claims of fraud and illegal activity.

MLive: Soldano had called for a “thorough investigation” during the debate, but clarified afterward that he believed fraud prevented former President Donald Trump from winning, though he didn’t mention it on stage. Hundreds of audits and a Republican-led Senate investigation failed to find evidence of widespread voter fraud.

MIRS: […] Kelley fully embraced the conspiratorial side of the grassroots and America First platform. “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem,” Kelley said. He said people should be relying on faith-based communities to solve their problems […]

He said he was the only one who said unequivocally that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald TRUMP.  He and Soldano cited “2000 Mules” as evidence that the election was stolen.

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