The race for governor in Michigan between the Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican challenger Tudor Dixon is not only one of the most important races in the 2022 Midterm election but also the most consequential statewide election that has taken place in Michigan in the past four years.
Whitmer has been in office for major policy changes like auto insurance, the global pandemic that paralyzed the state's economy and threatened the public health of millions, and the subject of a kidnapping conspiracy by extremists.
She was also a major political figure during the 2020 election which saw the balance of political power shift in both the U.S. Senate and the White House.
The electoral landscape has shifted in the two years that have passed and candidates with establishment backgrounds and ceded ground to political newcomers – like Dixon, a conservative media personality and businesswoman who hails from the west side of Michigan.
Dixon wasn't polling well when she first entered the gubernatorial race in May 2021. At the time, she hosted a daily radio show called America's Voice Live where she often criticized the policies of Democrats including Whitmer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was one of 10 candidates who filed signatures for the Republican Primary, later winning the nominating contest after she secured former President Donald Trump's endorsement just days before the August Primary.
The race is the first Michigan governor election featuring two women from both major parties. Both candidates have also explained very different visions for how they would approach the governorship.
Dixon has been part of the charge on the culture wars that have been themes among Republican circles, focusing on parental rights in schools. Whitmer has campaigned on her track record while in office and major political issues like abortion access in Michigan.
While the incumbent can benefit from name recognition and Whitmer has maintained a sizable campaign chest, polls in recent weeks have shown the race tightening between her and Dixon.
Here's a breakdown of the issues that have dominated the race for governor:
Reproductive health and the right to an abortion are among the top issues on the ballot. Proposal 3, which asks voters if they would want to enshrine the right to get an abortion in the state constitution, is considered to be a major draw to the polls during the Midterms.
The issue has also been a talking point among both candidates. Whitmer has repeatedly tied herself to the issue of access, criticizing Dixon for supporting the state's 1931-era ban on the practice with almost no exception.
Whitmer has pushed for legal and safe access to the practice. Dixon has called Prop 3 “too extreme” but has also written on Twitter that voters could both “vote for Gretchen Whitmer's abortion agenda & still vote against her.”
Coming out of the pandemic's most severe infection waves, it was in schools where different political stripes clashed often. Criticisms over state and district-mandated remote learning eventually transitioned to other arguments over how involved parents should be in the curriculum of their child's education.
Dixon is running on a “Preserve Parents' Rights” campaign, arguing against teaching subjects of sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ themes in schools. She also criticized Whitmer for her veto of a program that would have allocated funding for private reading. Her website also says she wants to create an Education Savings Account fund tutoring programs to help students with learning loss.
Whitmer has touted her education budget that used pandemic funds to help boost the investment toward schools. She's also made programs that fund secondary education in community colleges and promised to aid frontline workers in their educational pursuits.
The economy and the rising cost of food and other items have dominated both debates between Whitmer and Dixon. Both clashed on issues of inflation, tax breaks for major car companies, and the cost of energy.
Whitmer has continued to tout legislative bills she has signed that she has sold as pro-business including attracting projects from General Motors and Ford. She also recently celebrated the announcement of two new battery manufacturers who said they would construct plants in Michigan.
Dixon says she wants to reduce the personal income tax and eventually phase it out to make the state more like Texas and Florida. She has advocated for reducing government regulations by 40%.