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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

Michigan's race for governor: Meet GOP candidate Tudor Dixon

Michigan's primary election is August 2. There are five candidates vying for the Republican Party's nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the November election.

As part of Michigan Radio's Election 2022 coverage, we're speaking to those candidates on Morning Edition.

Tudor Dixon worked as a conservative media personality. Dixon also has experience in public relations and in the steel industry. She lives in Muskegon County.

Dixon spoke with Morning Edition host Doug Tribou.

Doug Tribou: You've talked a lot about schools and education during your campaign. And your campaign has the backing of the DeVos family, including former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. What are your priorities for improving education in Michigan?

Tudor Dixon: First and foremost, I want to see education freedom in the state of Michigan, so that parents have a say in their child's education. But we also want to see parents involved in education. COVID brought a lot of parents to the table saying, "Wow, I'm seeing how my kids are learning. I'm interested. I want to be there. I want to talk to the teachers."

If you look at the numbers, our literacy exams just came back for third graders and we had 50% of our third graders fail in the state of Michigan, which is pretty devastating news. How can we get parents involved? How can we make some changes to the system that will help us to make sure that every kindergartner that goes into kindergarten in 2022, by the end of my first term as governor is reading? One hundred percent they're reading.

DT: There's been a lot of talk in the state about a voucher system, and a debate over whether that is constitutional, allowing public dollars to support private school vouchers. Do you support that type of voucher system?

TD: I'd like to see an education savings account system for parents in the state of Michigan. I think that what we saw recently with the Supreme Court decision on the case out of the state of Maine is very interesting because the Supreme Court, they came back and said that it was unconstitutional to prevent these state dollars from providing a private education.

So, we do believe that there is an opportunity there for the state of Michigan as well, especially for parents who feel like, "Wow, my schools fall in the bottom 25% of schools in the state. My child has a wrong path. My child can't achieve in the school." Well, let's make sure there's no wrong path for any child in the state, and the parents can be involved in that decision.

DT: We've seen a string of mass shootings in schools here in the U.S., including in Michigan at Oxford High School last year. You have said during the campaign that you want to harden our schools so that they aren't so-called soft targets. What specifically would you change?

TD: I'd like to make sure we have a one-entry access point. I'd also like to have safety resource officers on campus. We have a report from the Michigan State Police from 2018 that is extremely detailed on how to keep our schools safe. I think we need to go through that report with a committee, where we sit down and we look at the recommendations from the people who really trained to keep us safe every day and then go forward and do that as quickly as we possibly can.

DT: Would you support red-flag laws about firearms that, in some cases, may have made a difference in terms of access to the guns that were used in these types of shootings?

TD: No. In fact, we've seen that states that have red flag laws have not prevented this. So I don't want to give people false hope in a solution that has not proved to be a solution in other states. Let's take a look at Highland Park in Illinois just a few weeks ago. The police knew he was considered a risk. He was still able to get weapons. And then ultimately we ended up with this horrific shooting.

"I think it's very hard for us to tell."
Tudor Dixon on whether she believes the results of the 2020 presidential election were correct

We have to make sure that we're addressing mental health, that we're looking at this from a broader viewpoint of [more than] just these red-flag laws because they've proven not to work.

DT: You've been endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan and have said that you support Michigan's 1931 law banning abortion. That law is currently dormant because of a court order. But there is a petition to enshrine abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution that could end up on the November ballot if that ballot measure were to pass. If that happens, would you respect the will of the people despite being opposed to the change that it would make?

TD: Look, I am against any elected official who says I'm not going to abide by the law that is there and that [law] would be a constitution change. But I think it's very important that people understand what that is, because it takes all protections that we have now off the books when it comes to abortion. So, there's no parental consent. This is now not even a health care provider. The way it's worded is a health care professional. So anybody really that could be considered a health care professional [could] perform an abortion. It's also dismemberment abortion. It's partial birth abortion. It's abortion to the moment of birth. This would be the most radical abortion law in the land.

DT: I believe the language in the statute says the state can intervene post-viability. And as far as the language about health care providers, what distinction are you looking for there?

TD: So we've already had our legal experts look at this and say this is a danger because I mean, a dentist falls into the category of a health care professional. A school nurse falls into the category. That is opening the door to say know it could be anybody that can perform this abortion and that's dangerous as well.

DT: But is that a realistic situation? I mean, if there were a law legalizing abortion in Michigan, there are licensed providers around the state already providing those services with clinics. Do you believe people would be having abortions in a dentist's office or at the school nurse? Do you do you believe that's a real threat?

TD: I think it's a real threat when you think about the predators that could be out there that would force somebody in that situation, so that there would be no record of it. And then ultimately that person who performed that wouldn't be held liable. It opens the door. And why have that door open? Why change the law to be so radical?

DT: Let's turn to fiscal policy. The state of Michigan is sitting on a surplus of billions of dollars from larger than expected tax revenues, lots of federal stimulus money as well. Both Republicans and Democrats in Lansing have said they're open to considering various forms of tax cuts. How would you deal with the budget surplus?

TD: Eventually, the goal would be to get rid of the personal income tax altogether so that we are one of the competitive states where people want to move. The latest report is that last year we actually began to lose population and that's devastating. So we have to look at what does it take to make Michigan a more affordable place to live?

DT: You've made some general statements, without citing specifics, saying that you have concerns about the handling of the 2020 election. Do you accept the results of the 2020 presidential election and will you accept the results of the primary next month?

TD: I've said that I don't agree with how the secretary of state handled the election, and I do believe that once the Constitution comes into play and we have certified it, we have certified it. But we should be able to look back at what happened. And we want to make sure that our secretary of state is running things as professionally and legally as she can.

DT: But do you believe the election 2020 results were correct?

TD: I think it's very hard for us to tell because of exactly what I just cited.

Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can hear the full interview near the top of this page.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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