Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday defeated Republican challenger Tudor Dixon, securing her bid for re-election and keeping a Democrat at the top of critical swing state, NBC News projects.
Whitmer, who gained a national following in the early days of the pandemic and is seen as a future contender for a senior position, was seen as a top target for Republicans in 2022.
Polls have tightened in recent weeks. But Whitmer persisted, boosted by tens of millions of dollars in ad spend that Dixon, a former right-wing commentator backed by former President Donald Trump, had never matched.
Addressing her supporters just after 1 a.m. ET Wednesday, before most news outlets had called off the race, Whitmer stopped celebrating, signaling she was waiting for more results. Hours later, she formally declared victory in a speech.
“I won’t make any predictions for the next four years,” Whitmer said. “But I can promise you this: We will make Michigan a place where you can envision your future, a state where everyone — no matter who they are, where they come from, how much money they have in their pocket, who they love or how they identify – can thrive here.”
Dixon admitted Wednesday morning. According to her campaign, she had called Whitmer.
“Michigan’s future success does not lie with elected officials or the government, but with all of us,” Dixon said. “It is the duty of all of us to help our children read, support law enforcement and grow our economy.”
Whitmer, who made the shortlist when Joe Biden was looking for a running mate in 2020, has been the subject of future White House speculation. She was also a frequent Trump supporter — “that woman in Michigan,” he contemptuously called her during the Covid-19 lockdowns. And she was the target of a kidnapping scheme by men unhappy with her restrictions during the pandemic.
Trump gave few states as much attention as he gave Michigan, which in 2020 Biden won by about 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points. During the closing days of the GOP primaries for governor, he supported Dixon, who had been tiptoeing around the 2020 issue while indulging in baseless conspiracy theories that cast doubt on the results.
“I believe there was enough fraud in the elections that we should be very concerned and that we should have the strict election laws that the legislature has passed to ensure that our elections are fair in the future,” she told in July. MLive.
Dixon came out of the primary field after several more viable candidates were disqualified and Michigan’s influential DeVos family — including Betsy DeVos, who resigned as Trump’s education secretary after the January 6 uprising — gave her financial backing.
Rather than go to the middle after she landed the nomination, Dixon leaned harder on her socially conservative views and eagerness to fight the culture wars. On the first night, she poked fun at Whitmer’s support for transgender rights by referring to the governor with the gender-neutral term “birthparent” and wondering who the “real woman” in the race was.
Early general election polls showed Whitmer was in the lead, aided by money her campaign and an outside group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association had put on Michigan’s airwaves. Despite Michigan’s swing-state status, Republicans were slow to invest there, never catching up on the other side’s spending. Still, polls showed a tighter race was on the way over the past week.