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Democrats slam Tudor Dixon in attack ad, days before Michigan governor primary

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon speaks with police officers during a roundtable event Wednesday, which coincided with an ad campaign from Democrats saying her tax plan would prompt massive police layoffs. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Democratic Governors Association airs new statewide TV ad attacking Republican candidate Tudor Dixon
  • Commercial says Dixon tax plan could cut funding for police, a claim she calls ‘false’
  • Dixon has been under attack in recent weeks as she has climbed in polls.

REDFORD TOWNSHIP — Democrats are targeting Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon with a new attack ad in the final days before Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Put Michigan First, a group backed by the Democratic Governors Association, is spending $2 million on a statewide television ad campaign suggesting a Dixon tax cut proposal could force widespread police officer layoffs. 

Dixon's proposal to "phase out" Michigan's personal income tax, which generates $12 billion a year in revenue for state and local governments, could "slash" funding for police across the state, "threatening funding for thousands of law enforcement jobs," a narrator says as a graphic warns of police layoffs. 

“You want to lead Michigan? You gotta keep people safe,” the ad says.

Related:

Dixon called the ad “complete baloney” and “absolute bull” on Wednesday morning in a round-table discussion in metro Detroit’s Redford Township with leaders of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, a statewide union group that has endorsed her in the GOP primary. 

“I would never do that,” Dixon said, referring to the claim that she would cut police funding if elected. 

She said the ad is proof that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is “scared of going up against me” in the general election.

“She knows that I would be the one to take her out of office and end her political career in Michigan,” Dixon said.

In a Wednesday letter, Dixon's campaign attorney asked television stations to "immediately cease and desist" from airing the ad, citing "false and defamatory" information. 

Democrats are spending at least $1 million on TV ads before the primary claiming that GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon's tax cut plan would lead to massive police layoffs. (Screenshot)

While it's true that Dixon's plan could force future government spending cuts, the ad is misleading because the Norton Shores Republican has not specified how she would phase in the tax cut or where spending cuts might occur. 

DGA spokesperson Sam Newton defended the ad, telling Bridge Michigan in an email that the group thinks it's "100 percent fair game" to criticize Dixon for a major tax cut plan that could require spending cuts she has not identified. 

“We’re holding Michigan Republicans accountable for their harmful policies that would make life worse for families in Michigan,” Newton said in a statement.

Speaking with police Wednesday, Dixon said she is not considering funding cuts and wants to explore "creative ways" to help recruit and retain officers, such as signing bonuses or tax credits to help pay out-of-pocket health care costs. 

“The voices speaking against police are not living in the neighborhoods who desperately need police,” she said.

One of Dixon's primary rivals, businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township, has proposed a more aggressive plan to eliminate Michigan’s personal income tax within one year of taking office, as opposed to what she has touted as a gradual approach

Other GOP candidates have also proposed tax cuts, including Garrett Soldano of Mattawan, Ryan Kelley of Allendale Township and Ralph Rebandt of Farmington Hills. 

But the New Democratic ad focuses on Dixon, who has led recent polls and is backed by some of the biggest names in traditional Michigan GOP politics, including the powerful DeVos family of billionaires.

Democrats bought air time on broadcast stations in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Flint and Traverse City markets and are also planning a "massive" statewide cable blitz, according to GOP strategist John Yob, who is tracking political ad spending.

A broadcast disclosure report filed Tuesday by WOOD-TV indicates the Democratic group plans to spend $384,143 on Grand Rapids-area broadcast ads alone through the Aug. 2 primary.

It's at least the second TV ad of the cycle from Put Michigan First, which last month ran a statewide ad criticizing most of the GOP field while promoting Whitmer.

The new anti-Dixon ad cites a 2017 report from the Michigan Association of Police Organizations arguing that a $10 billion tax cut plan could "have a devastating impact on police department budgets at the state and local levels."

The report was prepared five years prior to Dixon's tax cut plan, however, and it is not specific to her proposal. 

"It's a cute attack coming from the party that has championed the idea of defund the police," Dixon said Wednesday.

Dixon and other Republicans have bashed Whitmer, the first-term Democrat, for saying in 2020 that she supports the "spirit" of the defund police movement, which seeks to redirect resources into community and mental health support programs. 

As governor, Whitmer has increased funding for police and public safety. The annual state police budget has grown from $780 million to nearly $824 million since she took office. Revenue sharing for local governments has increased as well. 

Agencies now have more money for community police officers, but they’re struggling to fill those positions amid national outcry over perceived police brutality and racial injustice, according to Romulus Police Chief Robert Pfannes, who told Dixon that he discouraged his own son from going into law enforcement because it has become a thankless job.

“There's nobody out there defending us,” Pfannes said.

Dixon told the officers, who have already endorsed her campaign, that she could “be that voice” if elected governor. 

She pointed to her sympathetic comments about Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr. He is accused of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Patrick Lyoya, a Congolese refugee who the officer shot in the back of the head during a struggle following a traffic stop. 

Schurr, who has pleaded not guilty, was charged by Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, a Republican, who said he would not be prosecuting if he did not think he could prove the crime. 

Schurr was "fighting for his life, and now he's fighting for his freedom," Dixon said Wednesday,

"We don't want police to feel like they're either not going to come home because they get killed on the job, or they're going to get arrested for doing the job." 

After Schurr was charged in June, Dixon released a statement noting that a "record number of officers were killed in 2021."

“That must not be forgotten as politically motivated prosecutors and attorneys general go after officers who are putting their lives on the line every day for our communities while facing increasingly defiant residents who defile the rule of law,” the statement read.

“It is a development we cannot accept as a society. I have spoken with many officers, chiefs, and sheriffs since the incident. They have universally expressed the dangerous conditions and lack of support they face every day.”

 

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