GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tudor Dixon won Michigan’s Republican nomination for governor, NBC News programs, emerging from one of the year’s most tumultuous primaries in a state where the general election will have major implications for the next presidential race.
The former conservative media personality, who secured the endorsement last week from former President Donald Trump, will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was reappointed unopposed on Tuesday.
Early results put Dixon ahead of four rivals, including chiropractor Garrett Soldano. Kevin Rinke, a former Detroit-area car dealer who loaned $10 million to his campaign. and Ryan Kelley, a real estate agent and right-wing activist who was briefly in the spotlight after his arrest on misdemeanor charges for participating in the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.
Dixon’s victory is in part a testament to the power of the DeVos family, kingpins of Michigan politics who backed her and helped fund an aligned super PAC. And her victory gives Trump another ally close to a governor and the power to certify election results.
Trump continues to falsely claim he was robbed of a second term in 2020 and is teasing another term in 2024. At the debates, Dixon responded affirmatively when asked if he thought Trump won Michigan, which narrowly went to President Joe Biden. He has also embraced disproved theories that fraud and botched efforts by Democratic officials swung the election to Biden.
But Dixon’s rhetoric has been less consistent and less forceful than the claims echoed by other Trump allies in Michigan and across the country. In the final days of the race, her opponents questioned her loyalty to the former president, seizing a Interview on “Fox News Sunday”. to which Dixon shied away when asked if she believed the 2020 election was stolen.
After voting Tuesday morning near her home in western Michigan, Dixon similarly sidestepped a reporter’s request to clarify her position.
“You know what? Today I don’t think that’s an appropriate question,” Dixon replied, adding that she was focusing on her own election. “We’ve answered that several times.”
In a year when messy GOP primaries were hardly unusual, Michigan offered more chaos than most — a crowded field of no-choice voters, wealthy businessmen throwing away their money, a petition-signing scandal, a candidate arrested in Jan. 6 (Kelley has pleaded not guilty), a seven-figure ad effort by national Democrats to slow Dixon’s momentum, and a late Trump endorsement that tore the party apart.
Dixon appeared to be on track to win the nomination even before Trump weighed in. After entering the race as a political unknown with low poll numbers and little cash, she exploited the mistakes of her better-placed opponents.
Her opponents — even before, but mostly after, her evasive Fox News interview — had argued that a DeVos endorsement would make Dixon beholden to the establishment and, in the case of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to a Trump coattails who resigned from the cabinet. after accusing him of the fatal violence on January 6. The DeVos-funded super PAC gave Dixon air coverage, spending more than $2.5 million on ads, according to ad tracker AdImpact. Dixon spent only $118,000.
Rinke left behind over $1 million advertising which linked Dixon to DeVos and other GOP figures portrayed as RINOs or Republicans in Name Only. Soldano, who built a devoted grassroots following by protesting Whitmer’s Covid policies, regularly attacked Dixon’s establishment patrons in the debates.
The GOP’s infighting and malice could subside by the fall. Soldano, in an interview Sunday with NBC News after a campaign event in Warren, said he would support Dixon if she won the primary but would do little to energize his staunch supporters for anyone other than himself.
“It’s definitely broken right now,” Soldano said of the party.
Despite attempts to characterize it as an insufficiently conservative organ of the establishment, Dixon projects a tough stance against abortion that the Democrats managed to paint her as an extremist. (Dixon favors exceptions only when the mother’s life is in danger.) Favors phase out the state’s personal income tax and often talks about “parental rights” in education — a front in the culture wars embraced by GOP candidates nationally amid battles over the propriety of teaching students about racism and sexual orientation. He has also attacked the use of gender-neutral language as part of a “war on women”.
Dixon, Trump told listeners of a brief “rally” call he held for her Monday night, “was on the front lines of the battle against the left-wing indoctrination of our children.”
Few would have predicted Dixon’s rise. Before joining the conservative media, she had worked as an actress in several low-budget films and for her family’s steel company.
Whitmer, a rising national star and a frequent target of Trump’s ire, considered drafting a rival marquee. Prospects with far more familiar names, such as two-time Senate candidate John James and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel, were considered possible but dropped out of the race. The GOP establishment, seeing no front-runner between Dixon and the other declared candidates, responded with enthusiasm when James Craig stepped down as Detroit police chief to launch a run last year.
However, Dixon had a thing for her. He had hosted programs on Real America’s Voice, the network that also carries former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s right-wing talk show and made friends in the former president’s orbit. But it wasn’t until other campaigns broke out that her fortunes began to improve. Craig and another top contender, self-funded entrepreneur Perry Johnson, were disqualified for submitting allegedly fraudulent petition signatures.
At the time, the DeVoses made their preference for Dixon known. Eventually, ads placed by the super PAC they supported soon began to take root, pushing Dixon into the lead in the polls.