Tudor Dixon, a conservative media personality with the political backing of Michigan’s powerful DeVos family, won the state’s Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
She will advance to the general election against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a first-term Democrat who was on the short list to be Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate in the summer of 2020.
In recent weeks, the primaries became a race to win the endorsement of former President Donald J. Trump, who ultimately endorsed Ms. Dixon. But he didn’t wait for his official endorsement to air a TV ad by Mr. Trump praising her at a campaign rally and the release of an internal poll showing that half of the primary electorate believed Mr. Trump had already endorsed her.
Ms. Dixon emerged victorious from a five-person field that lost its two best-funded candidates in May after they were disqualified by a state search committee for submitting forged petition signatures.
A former commentator for the conservative media channel “Real America’s Voice,” Ms. Dixon, 45, was formerly an actress and an executive at her family’s steel company. She said she was driven to run because of her anger at Mrs. Whitmer’s policies, especially the pandemic shutdown orders that were among the nation’s strictest in the early months of Covid-19.
A mother of four school-aged children, Ms. Dixon favors per-pupil education funding to follow students to whichever school they choose, including private schools. The policy aligns with longtime priorities of the DeVos family, including Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s former education secretary.
At a debate in May, Ms. Dixon raised her hand when asked if she thought Mr. Trump had won Michigan in 2020, a race he actually lost to President Biden by 154,000 votes. But on Sunday, after securing Mr. Trump’s endorsement, Mrs. Dixon stepped back from that position, saying instead that he was concerned about “how they handled the election.” A lengthy review by state Senate Republicans in 2021 shot down claims by Trump supporters that there was widespread fraud.
Ms. Dixon and the rest of the Republican field were relatively unknown in Michigan, with polls showing that two in five Republicans did not know or had no opinion of either candidate just two weeks before the election.
Her leading rival, self-funded former car dealership owner Kevin Rinke, attacked Mrs. Dixon as a tool of the DeVos family when Ms. DeVos said in June that he had tried to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office after the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill. Ms. DeVos endorsed Ms. Dixon’s campaign and her family helped fund it and handwritten “Dear Mr. President” letter from Ms. DeVos to Mr. Trump; last week he appeared to rally his support for Ms Dixon.
Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor who gained political attention by organizing rallies against Ms. Whitmer’s pandemic mitigation efforts in 2020; urged Mr. Trump not to endorse Ms. Dixon. He said in a video message to Mr. Trump that after Jan. 6, the DeVos family “basically abandoned you, sir.”
And Ryan Kelley, a real estate agent, was arrested in June and was charged with four misdemeanors for his actions on Capitol Hill on January 6. Mr Kelley pleaded not guilty and said he had joined the rioters outside but had not entered the building. He predicted at the time that the publicity surrounding his arrest would help his campaign, although he did not raise enough money to air television ads.
Of the top four candidates, three — Ms. Dixon, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Soldano — was falsely said during the May debate that Mr. Trump had carried Michigan in 2020. Mr. Rinke said there had been fraud, but that he could not be sure it was enough to swing the state to Mr. Trump.
Trip Gabriel contributed reporting.