Michigan governor candidates Whitmer, Dixon to debate for final time

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon will debate Tuesday for the final time before the November election for control of the battleground state.

Dixon, a former businesswoman and conservative commentator who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is hoping a late surge of support will help her unseat the first-term incumbent Democrat. Whitmer, a former state legislator, has a multimillion-dollar fundraising advantage over Dixon, who has never held public office.

The governor and fellow Democrats spent months pummeling Dixon with ads before the Republican and her supporters — including the family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — responded. The final weeks of the campaign have seemed more like a competitive contest, with both hopefuls on TV and the candidates holding public events around the state.

At their first of two face-to-face debates earlier this month, the candidates attacked each other as "too extreme" on issues such as abortion, gun laws and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer and other Democrats have made Dixon’s opposition to abortion rights a focus after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, removing the nationwide right to abortion and leaving the issue to states to decide.

Dixon opposes abortion rights except to save the life of the mother, though she said she would abide by the results of a ballot question asking voters whether to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution. That would eliminate the state’s 1931 abortion ban, which has been on hold since a judge’s ruling in a lawsuit Whitmer filed seeking to block the ban from taking effect.

Both candidates are getting outside reinforcement. Trump held a rally with Dixon and other GOP candidates, and the Republican Governors Association recently began running TV ads to support Dixon’s campaign. RGA chairman Doug Ducey, the Arizona governor, visited Michigan to campaign on Dixon’s behalf, saying "the time is right in Michigan for a change."

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On Saturday, former President Barack Obama will be in Detroit to campaign with Whitmer and other Democrats, part of a multi-city swing the Democrat is making to boost the party’s candidates in states that also are presidential battlegrounds: Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada, all of which also have competitive Senate races on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Many voters have already cast their ballots. As of last week, more than 1.7 million voters had requested mail-in ballots and more than 432,000 ballots had been returned, the secretary of state’s office said. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2018 that allows all voters who request to vote by mail to do so.