DETROIT (CN) — Voters in Michigan's primary election Tuesday were tasked with choosing congressional candidates in several notable races and determining who from a crowded field of Republicans will be pitted against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the general election.
With close to 50% of the vote counted as of 11:30 p.m., the Republican gubernatorial primary was called for candidate Tudor Dixon, who had collected 39% of the vote, while competitor Kevin Rinke had garnered 21%, Garrett Soldano was in third place with 18% of the vote, and Ryan Kelley trailed behind him at 15%.
Kelley, a real estate broker who reportedly spent around $274,000 on his campaign, is most well-known for being charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. His home was raided by the FBI and he was arrested on June 9. He's pleaded not guilty.
David A. Dulio, an Oakland University political scientist, thought the incident was a positive for Kelley's campaign.
“He has a base of support that is tied to relitigating 2020,” Dulio said in a recent telephone interview.
However, despite declaring that “Trump has done amazing things for our country,” during a gubernatorial debate on July 7, Kelley failed to get the former president's endorsement. That honor instead went to Dixon, a conservative commentator who spent more than $1.1 million on her campaign.
Dulio noted Dixon was on a tightrope.
“She is leaning a little more towards the establishment wing of the party … while still trying to keep a toe in the Trump wing,” the professor said.
Dixon caused a stir recently when she discussed her support for a total ban on abortion and said a hypothetical 14-year old girl who was the victim of incest would be the “perfect example” of why such a ban is needed.
"Because I know people who are the product,” she told Charlie Duff on his internet talk show. “A life is a life for me. That's how it is. That is for me, that is my feeling."
Dixon was jovial as she was addressed supporters at a Grand Rapids hotel Tuesday night.
"Now we have the opportunity to truly hold Gretchen Whitmer accountable for the pain she's inflicted on each and every one of us during the past four years," she said.
Earlier in the day, Linda Liddell from the city of Livonia lamented she was not able to learn more about the candidates in the lead-up to the primary and settled with Rinke because of his business background. Rinke, a businessman from Bloomfield Township, ascended through his family automotive dealership business before moving on to the medical field. He reported spending $5.7 million on his campaign this year although much of it was his own money.
“I think he’s the best to go up against Gretchen,” she said, adding the abortion issue was front and center for her, as she's "pro-life."
Garrett Soldano, who spent $1.9 million on his campaign, positioned himself as an underdog against the political machine. His Facebook group, “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine,” was eventually removed by the social media giant.
With more than 93% of the vote counted in the freshly drawn 11th Congressional District, Haley Stevens declared victory in the Democratic primary over Andy Levin. She had 59% of the vote while Levin had garnered 40%.
Haley Stevens celebrated her victory in Birmingham, an affluent northern suburb of Detroit. The Detroit News reported that Andy Levin called her to concede.
"Let's continue to do the work of the people, for Oakland County. Let's show this country how we do it," Stevens said.
"Let's pass a national right to abortion care for the girls who are relying on us," she added. "Let's do it for the moms who never thought they'd see this day. Let's do it for the people."
Stevens will face the Republican Mark Ambrose or Matthew DenOtter in a district that is decisively blue. With about 58% of ballots counted, Ambrose held a commanding lead with 70% of the vote, while DenOtter had 29%.
Dulio said the race between Stevens and Levin was a tough one to predict.
“They are so similar on so many issues,” he said.
Stevens won the current 11th House District in 2018. She was formerly chief of staff for the task force that navigated U.S. automakers through bankruptcy in the late 2000s.
Levin, a U.S. representative for Michigan's 9th congressional district since 2019, is the son of former U.S. House Representative Sandy Levin and nephew to the late former U.S. Senator Carl Levin. He's touted his progressive record in Congress during the campaign.
Dulio thought that Stevens had an advantage since she represented a bigger portion of the newly drawn district but added that Levin has a distinct identity as well as name recognition.
“Levin has tried to carve out the progressive side of the party for himself and he’s done that with the positions he’s taken, with the endorsements he’s gotten,” Dulio said.
In Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Peter Meijer went up against Trump favorite John Gibbs. Gibbs held onto a razor-thin lead of 51.8% compared to Meijer's 48.2%, and will advance to face Democrat Hillary Scholten, who is also running unopposed.
“I’m not running on a campaign of ‘Why My Opponent Is Awful,’” Meijer told the National Review recently. “When it comes to personality politics … it doesn’t have an impact on ensuring that our economy is strong.”
Gibbs was appointed by Trump as Acting Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development under then-Secretary Ben Carson and was recently called out by CNN for falsely claiming that the 2020 election results were rigged.
Dulio thinks it will be a fascinating race.
“It’s a Democratic-leaning district overall and that makes it so interesting because if Peter Meijer wins the primary, I think he wins the general. If Gibbs wins the primary, he loses the general,” he predicted. “The Trump endorsement can be a blessing in the primary, but the kiss of death in the general.”
Meijer was furious at Democrats for giving financial support to Gibbs in an effort to secure a Democrat in the seat.
“The Democrats are justifying this political jiu-jitsu by making the argument that politics is a tough business … but that toughness is bound by certain moral limits … Democrats seem to have forgotten just where those limits lie,” he wrote.
Some Michigan voters Tuesday expressed distrust with the election process, but in a news conference on Monday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson assured voters that there was no funny business.
“Michigan’s elections are among the most secure and accurate in the nation, and any attempts by canvassers to illegally deny certification will be futile, as we are confident courts would swiftly enforce the law,” she said.
She continued: “Our office will ensure that regardless of who wins or loses an election, the will of the people will rule the day.”
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