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4 of Whitmer's GOP challengers debate on Mackinac Island

Republican candidates for Governor debating at the Mackinac Policy Conference. From left: Tudor Dixon, Ralph Rebandt, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano.
Sarah Cwiek
Republican candidates for Governor debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference. From left: Tudor Dixon, Ralph Rebandt, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano.

Four of the five Republicans officially on the ballot in Michigan's 2022 Governor’s race debated each other on Mackinac Island Thursday.

The candidates struggled to break out of the pack. Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, Tudor Dixon, and Ralph Rebandt were largely in lockstep, expressing hard right-wing stances on the majority of issues discussed.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and Doug Tribou discuss the debate.

All of them said they want to reduce the state budget and shrink spending. All are vehemently opposed to abortion rights. The candidates also expressed some reservations about accepting election results as legitimate, and suggested that Michigan elections are rife with fraud. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The candidates had different ideas for pre-conditions that would allow them to accept election results. For Rebandt, who said he “questions” the result of the 2020 presidential election, it would be having enough of what he called “proper poll watchers.”

“In order for me to accept the election results, I would have to see and know that people are there and not be extracted from the room,” said Rebandt, a Farmington Hills pastor.

Another issue of agreement among the Republican candidates is that the proper response to school shootings is not more restrictive gun laws, but more intense security measures. Dixon said that as of now, schools are “a soft target.”

“The COVID funds that came in, this is a good time to spend [them] this summer,” Dixon said. “Take some of those funds and harden our schools over the summer so that when our kids come back, they're safe.”

All four candidates also said they would eagerly accept an endorsement from President Donald Trump, who has yet to issue one in the race.

West Michigan realtor Ryan Kelley is also on the Republican ballot. He declined to participate in the debate over COVID mitigation measures at the conference. Participants were required to submit a negative COVID-19 test or show proof of vaccination.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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