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Michigan Republicans nominate slate of far-right extremist candidates for statewide office

The GOP nominees for statewide office all oppose abortion rights and support the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.

By Adrian Cole - August 04, 2022
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Tudor Dixon

Several far-right Michigan Republicans endorsed by former President Donald Trump won their statewide primary elections on Tuesday, including Tudor Dixon for governor, Kristina Karamo for secretary of state, and Matthew DePerno for state attorney general.

The top three races for statewide office this November will be between three Democratic incumbents and Trump-endorsed challengers who have furthered conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election and who broadly oppose abortion rights.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will face off against Dixon, a businesswoman and conservative pundit who clinched the hotly contested GOP nomination for governor after securing Trump’s endorsement. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will run against DePerno, a Kalamazoo lawyer who has tried to overturn Michigan’s 2020 presidential election results. And Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will run against Karamo, a former community college instructor who is a follower of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

The three Republican nominees have all promoted the lie that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump, and they all share extreme anti-abortion views that are outside the mainstream for many Michigan voters.

Whitmer, Nessel, and Benson, meanwhile, represent an anti-Trump triumvirate in the state and have starkly opposed his party’s policies on abortion, voting rights, and COVID-19 safety measures, among other issues.

Benson’s mailing of absentee ballots, which is completely legal, caused outrage among the far right, incentivized several candidates to run for office, and even generated a plot to kidnap Whitmer.

Dixon’s father, Vaughn Makary, purchased a steel foundry and ran it as Michigan Steel. Dixon worked for her father’s company in customer service and sales and later founded Lumen News to provide “Pro-America, pro-Constitution morning news programs to grade school students.” From there, Dixon went on to work as a host for the conservative television outlet America’s Voice News.

Dixon beat four contenders in a chaotic primary race. One of Dixon’s opponents, realtor Ryan D. Kelley, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over his involvement in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, another early frontrunner in the race, was forced to drop off the ballot after the Michigan Bureau of Elections found his campaign had collected fraudulent petition signatures. Trump endorsed Dixon just days before the primary election.

In her victory speech on Tuesday night, Dixon painted Whitmer as a callous autocrat who she said shuttered businesses, issued mask mandates, and prevented children from attending schools.

“This is personal for me, and I know it’s personal for you too,” she added.

Many of the GOP candidates on the ballot this week had little daylight between them. In the governor’s race, all candidates supported the state’s 1931 abortion ban, which is the focus of ongoing legal battles since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

Dixon said she supports the 1931 state law, which bans abortions in all cases except for the life of the mother. She once claimed with no evidence that Planned Parenthood provides sex education to elementary and middle schools as a “business model,” suggesting that their programs lead to teens getting pregnant later in high school.

Dixon has been endorsed by anti-abortion groups including Michigan Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List. The latter group’s president has called abortion bans that include exceptions for rapeabominable.”

The Republican candidates largely oppose protecting Michigan’s natural environment from the fossil fuel industry. Dixon supports the opening of Line 5, a controversial oil and gas pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac, a cherished and vulnerable part of Michigan’s natural environment. Environmental groups have warned that the continued operation of the 60-year-old pipeline could lead to a disastrous oil spill in Lake Michigan.

All of the Republican candidates in the race have promised to drastically cut taxes. Auto executive Kevin Rinke proposed abolishing Michigan’s personal state income tax immediately, while Dixon suggested eliminating it in phases, so as to reduce the impact on the economy. Dixon has also promised to reduce regulations by “40%” without specifying which regulations would be cut and how.

Michael Greiner, assistant professor of management at Oakland University, said that while it’s easy to promise tax cuts, those cuts will eventually come out of the budget somewhere. Dixon has so far failed to specify what parts of the state budget she would cut to make up for the tax cuts.

“The bottom line,” Greiner told the American Independent Foundation, “is that Dixon appears to be making a bunch of promises she likely won’t be able to keep.”

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback proposed a similar policy of tax cuts, claiming that cutting taxes would lead to increased economic activity. That experiment failed, and the state’s economy did not grow enough to substitute for the reduction in revenue.

“Her proposals are woefully short on detail,” Greiner said of Dixon. “The Republicans have long been claiming that tax cuts will be made up for with higher economic activity. But we saw in Kansas how flawed that logic is.”

In the state attorney general’s race, Nessel will fend off a right-wing challenger in DePerno, who has worked to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan. On April 22, a state court threw out DePerno’s case attempting to investigate alleged improprieties in the Antrim County voting precinct. The county featured prominently in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, owing to a mistake made by a Republican election official. The mistake was remedied, and Trump won the county as expected.

DePerno also opposes abortion rights with no exceptions, even when the life of the mother is at risk.

In the secretary of state race, Benson is challenged by Karamo, a political novice who has trafficked in right-wing conspiracy theories. A one-time community college instructor, Karamo, who identifies as a “Christian apologist,” was a poll watcher during the 2020 presidential election, during which she claimed to have witnessed “irregularities.” Karamo has ties to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, and attended a convention of QAnon adherents in Las Vegas last year.

Karamo gave a press conference on Monday in which she baselessly called Benson “the most lawless secretary of state in Michigan’s history.” Benson, meanwhile, has reminded Michigan voters that the 2020 election was the largest and most secure in the state’s history, and pledged to protect voting rights in this year’s midterm elections.

In a press conference on Monday, Benson said that since the 2020 election, Trump and his allies have waged war on free and fair elections with “misinformation, lies, legislative strategy, meritless lawsuits, and threats to and harassment of election officials and their families.”

Trump-endorsed candidates won further down-ballot as well on Tuesday. John Gibbs, a former Trump administration appointee and prominent election denier, beat freshman Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, and former Army veteran John James beat Tony Marcinkewciz in the newly drawn 10th District.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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