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Michigan Republicans strive for unity in wake of divisive August primary

Tudor Dixon Speech Unity Luncheon
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Republican governor nominee Tudor Dixon speaks to supporters at a unity luncheon the day after the August primary

Michigan Republicans proclaimed they were unified following Tuesday’s primary. But one candidate refused to accept the results in the governor’s race.

Former Governor John Engler drew applause as he introduced Tudor Dixon, who won Tuesday's GOP gubernatorial primary, as “the next governor of the state of Michigan” at an event billed as a "Republican Unity Luncheon" in Lansing on Wednesday.

The event drew not only state Republican leaders, but also two of Dixon’s rivals for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, businessman Kevin Rinke and pastor Ralph Rebandt. Chiropractor Garrett Soldano, who finished third in the primary race, was not there, but he announced his support for Dixon separately.

But fourth-place finisher real estate broker Ryan Kelley was still refusing to concede. Kelley questioned the legitimacy of the results.

Tudor Dixon did not mention Kelley’s dissension in her speech at the luncheon, and she left without talking to reporters. Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser was unable to attend his party’s day-after-primary "unity luncheon."

Paul Cordes, the state Republican party chief of staff, said he expects Republican leaders will have success in convincing Kelley to drop his objections and back Dixon.

“I’m not concerned,” said Cordes, “But we have work to do.”

Republicans hope Dixon will be able to generate enough support to defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November — though some acknowledge she'll face significant obstacles.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.