Michigan Election Results: Gretchen Whitmer projected to win reelection for governor, beating Tudor Dixon

Gretchen Whitmer won a second term in office for Michigan's governor, beating her challenger Tudor Dixon in a high-stakes general election campaign that has broad implications for the state in the coming years.

Whitmer was projected the winner by FOX News with 51.5 percent to Dixon's 46.9 percent with 64 percent of the votes counted.

"I am so happy to here with all of you and my family, and my partner in governance, and all the phenomenal Michiganders who worked so hard to make sure that our voices were heard," Whitmer said. "To make sure that we set our state on course that is focused on the future, that is focused on solving problems, not demonizing others.

"That is focused on ensuring that Michigan is the place to build your life, to raise your family, and to make a great existence here.  We are thrilled at the unexpected high turnout. We are thrilled that the three ballot initiatives got passed."

Whitmer then echoed a quip by her Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist from earlier, giving unexpected credit to FOX News for calling the race first.

"I never thought I would be so happy about FOX News, but I am glad they called this election too," she said. 

More coverage: Interactive map results

The Democratic incumbent overcame headwinds at the national level while also successfully selling a version of Michigan's recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check more 2022 Midterm election results here

Dixon was not backing down at an election night rally before her supporters in Grand Rapids.

"This race is going to be too close to call, despite what FOX thinks," she said. "The results continue to trickle in, the major counties have a very long way to go. Macomb is now telling us that they won't even have any numbers until tomorrow morning, so it's definitely going to be a late night for us.

"We're going to stay up all night and we're going to watch these votes. We stay up until we have every vote counted."

Whitmer's handling of the public health crisis became a sticking point for both sides of the political aisle, with Democrats praising her guidance through Covid and Republicans criticizing her for being too heavy-handed on businesses and schools. 

Yet, when running for office in 2022 it was issues of inflation, attracting new business to the state, and most notably abortion that defined the campaign trail for Whitmer, who tied herself personally to reproductive rights over the summer. 

Dixon, who struggled with name recognition coming out of a bruising Republican primary election in August, made a late push to win the governor's seat as she matched attack ads and TV interviews in the final weeks of the midterm election.

Yet, it was too much to overcome for the freshman politician. Whitmer, who had blanketed airways as soon as the Republican was nominated, painted Dixon as extreme and out-of-touch with the Michigan electorate. 

Whitmer's early policy wins like cutting auto insurance costs quickly became background noise to both culture war themes like parental rights in the classroom, the rising cost of items due to inflation, and abortion.

That final issue morphed from political uncertainty to a major campaign theme that Democrats used to argue that if they weren't elected, abortion access would become restrictive in the U.S. Whitmer often mentioned the topic in the later months of the campaign. 

The issue of abortion access was also on the ballot as a proposal that, if approved by voters via ballot measure, would enshrine the practice as a constitutionally-protected right.