Michigan candidates for governor share stage, jabs at Mackinac Conference

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Six gubernatorial hopefuls shared the stage at the Mackinac Policy Conference - but certainly not the same ideas to lead the state.

"As we move forward the most important thing we can do is invest in our people," said Brian Calley, Lt. Governor. "That means to have a world class k through 12 systems and commit ourselves to lifelong learning. That we bring back skilled trades in a big way."

"What happened with Amazon is a wakeup call," said Shri Thanedar, Ann Arbor businessman. "This system of giving hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations is not working."

It didn't take long for the sparring to begin. Michigan's economy was a big focus during the debate that featured the top three candidates from each party. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette for the first time, faced off against Democratic former Sen. Gretchen Whitmer.

"One reason President Donald Trump has endorsed my candidacy is he knows I am going to cut taxes in Michigan like he's cut taxes in America," Schuette said. "And Senator Whitmer's plans for more taxes and more rules and regulations, it is an economic collapse plan which would send Michigan back to the time of Jennifer Granholm."

"Again, more position not plans," Whitmer responded

Whitmer continued to promote her plan to finally fix the roads.

"It's time to fix the damn roads," she said. "But infrastructure includes the water pipes underneath the ground, connecting everyone to broad band. If we want to have the edge in mobility, we can't have gravel roads. We've got to be connected. So I have put an infrastructure plan on the table that is a $3 billion investment. It is real and we can get it done." 

"The key to actually fixing our roads which is something I've been very outspoken on, is to upgrade our roads," said Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp.). "Go from these version one roads that are not lasting very long to a version two higher quality road that lasts three to four times as long."

Republican Patrick Colbeck recently came under fire for alleging his Democratic opponent Abdul El-Sayed, former Detroit heath director, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"He has been known also to say he wants to be known as a 215-pound middle finger to Donald Trump," Colbeck said. "That's not the type of attitude that the citizens of Michigan want to support. I think they need to be aware of his ties."

"It is a distraction," said El-Sayed. "Because at the end of the day, the kind of exclusionary language is exactly what is locking people out all over the state. An education system that has failed our kids in Detroit the fact that we can't even give people water in that city, the fact that Flint got poisoned - 9,000 kids who are still worried about clean water. That kind of exclusionary thinking is what's run government for too long."

Moderators of the debate also asked pointed questions about education, health care and legalizing marijuana.

"You look at plans my Democratic colleagues have is more taxes, more rules it is a sequel to the Jennifer Granholm failed governorship."

"We do have a different vision - after all Donald Trump has endorsed your candidacy," El-Sayed said, eliciting a laugh from the audience.