Republican Candidate for Governor
Trump-backed, DeVos-backed Republican candidate for Governor Tudor Dixon won big in the 2022 Michigan primary held Tuesday, August 2nd. Dixon was able to grab around 40% of the vote, aided generously by cash for advertising from the powerful DeVos family and a key endorsement from Trump in the days before the election.
Support for Dixon was split among the grassroots Republican activists of the state. Some see her as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) that will be beholden to her big-money backers making her likely to compromise on the most important conservative issues. Others see her as an opportunist that was largely absent from the long and difficult fight on the ground opposing Governor Whitmer’s COVID dictates. The two candidates that were front and center in that fight- Ryan Kelley & Garrett Soldano- split the vote of the “anti-mandate” crowd, together gaining approximately 33 percent. Upon listening to reactions from the grassroots, Dixon did win over some activists by appealing to their pragmatism, arguing she has less baggage than the other candidates, she says the right things, and her more moderate tone and positions will help win over independents in the general election.
Meanwhile, many grassroots activists have been vowing not to support Dixon upon her win, while others have already begun the calls for unity to defeat Whitmer in November. Whether Dixon can make moves to win the support of more grassroots activists remains to be seen, but in my view it is crucial. Dixon’s appeal is supposedly that she is more moderate, making her a better fit for a “purple” state like Michigan. But Whitmer tries to play the same game, so as the incumbent with even more cash, she has the clear advantage in that department. The force multiplier for the Republicans should have been a fired-up grassroots army of volunteers rallying around a goal of opposing Whitmer’s heavy-handed COVID response. That would have taken a candidate like Kelley or even Soldano, but now that seems unlikely to materialize. Dixon will have to rely on money and more traditional means, which, like candidate Bill Scheutte before her, she will give up the advantage to Whitmer. Can Republicans beat a relatively popular (somehow) incumbent like Whitmer in a low-key, standard point-by-point race without getting the electorate to remember the harm Whitmer caused? I am skeptical. While Whitmer can be tied to the dismal performance of Biden and her ideological comrades in Congress as the state of the country deteriorates under their leadership, she can also rally around the abortion issue to drive out Democrats to vote in the fall.
One thing Republicans do have going for them over 2018 is turnout. As of this writing, with only 77 percent of the voting complete, turnout has already surpassed the total for the 2018 primary. Note from the two breakdowns below the similarities in results regarding the ideological types of candidates. The establishment-backed candidates out-performed the more grassroots-style candidates in similar fashion.
Congressional District 3 – Meijer vs. Gibbs
This race is interesting because while in both cases the Trump-backed candidate won, the results here are in some ways the opposite of those in the Republican governor contest. Peter Meijer would be a difficult incumbent for an outside Republican to primary had it not been for his support for the impeachment of President Trump. John Gibbs pulled it off in an approximately 52-48% victory. The Detroit News has a good article detailing this race.
This shows the strength President Trump still wields in the state and in the nation. This race had a three-factor dynamic; principle, outside influence, and money. Incumbent Meijer had the money advantage, including outside money, but Trump’s endorsement of Gibbs and the labeling of Meijer as a RINO by activists were too much for even big money to cover up.
The real test of Trump’s influence comes in the general election and this race is a good indicator. The 3rd Congressional District has been redrawn since Peter Meijer won in 2020. What was considered a safe Republican district is now considered more of a toss up, with some pundits even labeling it as a slightly Democrat-leaning district, including the Cook Political Report.
Republicans in the new 3rd District however, which now includes part of conservative-leaning Ottawa County, may benefit from a fired up Conservative base. In the Ottawa County Commissioners primary, conservative group Ottawa Impact’s candidates won nine out of 11 races. Ottawa Impact was very vocal against the commission’s support for certain COVID mandates and other policies contrary to conservative values. If these races reflect the sentiment of the county, conservatives in the area, and in the new 3rd district, it could be an indicator of a strong Republican turnout in November.
Congressional District 11 – Levin vs. Stevens
On the Democrat side of the aisle, Haley Stevens somewhat surprisingly defeated Andy Levin for the Democrat candidacy to represent the newly drawn Michigan 11th Congressional District, which heavily leans Democrat. Levin, possibly the most progressive member of the current House of Representatives, with name recognition as a member of a political family that has had a member in Congress longer than many Michigan voters have been alive, had many powerful endorsement and other advantages over Stevens, a relatively new member of the House.
Some pundits labeled Stevens as more of a moderate, however the difference is rather small. Progressive outlet progressivepunch.org which tracks the voting records of Congressional members and rates them on how well they match progressive goals, has Levin labeled with a 99.65% overall progressive score and an “A Rating while Stevens sits at a 95.5% overall progressive score and an “A” rating.
Why is this race interesting? Other than the fact that a legacy candidate was defeated by a less experienced challenger, this race is seen as heavily influenced by outside money. Specifically, more than $4 million from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC was poured into support for Stevens due to perceived hostility to the interests of Israel on the part of Levin, who is Jewish himself. This quote from a Times of Israel article details part of the reason why:
Levin, who was backed by J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby, is vocally critical of Israel and authored a “Two-State Solution Act” this session that would restrict how Israel could use US aid, has been in AIPAC’s crosshairs. AIPAC’s former director David Victor, a Detroit resident, called Levin “arguably the most corrosive member of Congress to the US-Israel relationship.” He also said in a letter to prospective donors in January that “less engaged Democratic colleagues may take [Levin] at his word” on Israel because of his Jewish credentials.
Money talks. If a Jewish member of Congress, that is part of a Jewish political dynasty, that is tailor-made for the district he is trying to represent, can be taken out over a difference of opinion on what is best for Israel via massive funding of his opposition, then the same can potentially happen to anyone else on any other issue- no matter how obscure.
This author happens to (unfortunately) live in the new 11th Congressional district. While the district is almost certainly going to go the way of the Democrats, I will be supporting the Republican nominee Mark Ambrose: a veteran, West Point graduate, and overall very impressive and experienced candidate that hopefully will raise some eyebrows in the district regarding the threats our country faces from Democrats such as Stevens.
The 2022 General Election
These races and more indicate that the results of the 2022 general election will be difficult to predict in Michigan. The state of the country and the history of results of midterm elections usually indicate the Party opposed to the current occupant of the White House gain seats in Congress and the impact can often spill over into local races. Republicans are expected to regain the House and possible the Senate too. Will the same be true for Michigan’s internal politics? Redistricting and new maps, massive funding disparities, short memories on COVID tyranny, abortion activism’s unknown effects, ideological party rifts, differences in turnout, and Trump endorsements will all have an impact on the “purple” State of Michigan.