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Tudor Dixon: Michigan GOP governor candidate’s issues, biography, controversies

Tudor Dixon on stage
Tudor Dixon is a former conservative news personality who is running for governor as a Republican against Gretchen Whitmer, the incumbent Democrat.

Tudor Dixon was a virtual unknown earlier this year, but polls indicate the former conservative news host has pulled close to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the days leading to the Nov. 8 primary.

This week, Bridge Michigan has recapped what you need to know about candidates for attorney general and secretary of state, as well as candidates for other offices in our voter guide.

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Now, we turn to the race for governor, a four-year position that pays $159,000 per year and is the chief executive of a government with 47,000 workers and a $77 billion budget. The thumbnail sketch of Whitmer, who was elected in 2018, is at this link.

Here’s what you need to know about the Republican Dixon:

Biography

Dixon, 45, lives in Norton Shores with her husband and four daughters. She left her career as a steel industry executive in 2017 to launch a career as a media personality

Dixon grew up in Illinois and graduated from the University of Kentucky. She moved to Michigan in 2002 to work at her father's Muskegon steel foundry. 

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She left the company to start a family in 2009, three years before it collapsed. Dixon dabbled in acting for a bit before launching a conservative student news service and hosting a daily news program on Real America's Voice streaming network. 

Dixon’s running mate is Shane Hernandez, 39, a former state House member who emerged from the tea party movement. He was chair of the House Appropriations Committee and was named the most conservative member of the House in 2017 by the Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS) subscription news site. 

Top issues

Dixon has vowed to increase parental rights in schooling, gradually eliminate Michigan's 4.25 percent income tax, tighten election laws, increase police presence and pardon business leaders who the state cited for breaking COVID-19 rules. 

Education

Dixon is running as a conservative mother who vows to stop what she considers the indoctrination of kids in school. She promises to protect kids from "anti-American critical race theory" and "trans ideology," a term used by conservatives and religious organizations to describe their belief in gender dysphoria. 

She also wants to make it a crime for adults to bring minors to drag queen events and supported state legislators' who proposed bills allowing parents to sue schools if they exposed their children to drag queens. 

If elected, Dixon wants to implement five changes to Michigan's education system: 

  • Use state funding to provide 1-on-1 tutoring in reading and math.
  • Require schools to publish their curriculums and materials online 
  • Ban transgender students from competing on sports teams they associate their gender with.
  • Require students to learn about America's founding principles, Constitution, and the Founding Fathers' vision. 
  • Allow parents to use public funding on private, charter, virtual or homeschooling needs. 

Economy

Another of Dixon's priorities is eliminating the state's personal income tax over time, which is 4.25 percent and generated about $12 billion during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The tax counts for nearly 30 percent of all state tax revenue and primarily feeds Michigan's general fund.  

Dixon says she wants to eliminate the income tax to make the state more competitive with states that don't have the tax, like Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. While she hasn't disclosed plans on how to replace the tax's revenue, Dixon has promised not to eliminate funding for police to make it up. 

More police

In September, Dixon said she wanted to put $1 billion into public safety efforts over the next four years to help thwart a rise in violent crimes in Michigan. According to her campaign, Dixon wants to implement measures that include banning sanctuary cities, fund de-escalation training for police, maintain cash bail for violent criminals, and have a zero-tolerance policy for rioting. 

Reverse COVID-19 rules

Another of Dixon's campaign promises is to pardon "all business owners who were cited" under Whitmer's COVID-19 policies. The Republican candidate also vows to block mask mandates in schools and launch investigations into the state's response to the pandemic. 

Dixon’s grandmother died in a nursing home during the pandemic and visitation policies prevented the family from seeing her. Dixon said she plans to develop “family rights” legislation to “prevent families from being locked away from their loved ones in their final moments.” 

Controversies 

While relatively unknown until big-name Republicans like Donald Trump and former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos endorsed her, Dixon has made headlines for her beliefs about LGBTQ people, her history in the steel industry, and her stint as an actress. 

Election denying

Dixon has echoed former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. 

Dixon has resisted several overtures during the campaign and debates to say that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election in Michigan, despite numerous audits and a Republican-led investigation that confirmed his victory. 

She also declined to say whether she would honor the results of the Nov. 8 election.

"I just made it clear that if (Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson) runs an illegal election again, that would be a problem,” Dixon told reporters in October.

Family business 

Dixon says her experience as a steel industry executive is evidence she’s prepared for Michigan's tough battles. Revenue grew under Dixon's tenure at Michigan Steel, but records show the family company was repeatedly sued for failing to pay suppliers. 

Three years after Dixon departed from the company, it laid off the entire workforce and liquidated. 

LGBTQ teachings 

In September, Dixon called on the state superintendent to resign over LGBTQ training videos that advised teachers that it’s sometimes OK to avoid exposing a child's sexual orientation or gender identity to parents. 

Dixon has criticized "All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto," a young-adult book by a queer and Black author reportedly removed from schools in eight states because it contains descriptions of sexual acts. 

She also said she would consider a statewide ban on “pornographic” books in school libraries and has campaigned in Dearborn, showing support for parents who have objected to books with LGTBQ themes and graphic content in school libraries.

Dixon also proposes legislation, modeled after a Florida law, that would ban teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity with students from kindergarten to third grade.

Low-budget films

Before becoming a conservative TV personality, Dixon worked briefly as an actor, which she called a "hobby" to help a group of aspiring filmmakers. 

Between 2008 and 2012, she co-starred in a locally-filmed drama called "Lexibaby," played a teen "bopper" eaten by zombies in "Buddy BeBop vs the Living Dead" and was a leading vampire in a web series called "Transitions." 

Critics contend those films undermine Dixon's public persona as a family values candidate. The Michigan Democratic Party said her participation in a zombie film whose own creators called it "disgusting" "complicates (her) own crusade to demonize public schools" and Planned Parenthood.

Dixon and other supporters say the films are a nonissue.

“This has nothing to do with something that children would have access to,” she told The Detroit News.

Remarks

Dixon in September made a joke about Whitmer’s COVID policies and the kidnapping plot against her, which resulted in several convictions:  “The sad thing is Gretchen will tie your hands, put a gun to your head and ask if you’re ready to talk. For someone so worried about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage and holding it for ransom.”

In October, Dixon accused Whitmer of trying to force women to be single and work, saying “last time I checked, that was a pretty lonely life.”

Dixon’s stances

Abortion

Dixon opposes legal abortion except to protect the life of the mother. In an Oct. 13 debate, Dixon said "I've never said that I wanted to criminalize people" but that her stance on abortion is clear: "I am pro-life with exceptions for (the) life of the mother."

While the Republican candidate has not publicly said police should arrest people regarding abortions, she backs a suspended 1931 law that would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion. 

The suspended law does not make abortion exceptions for rape, incest or general health. 

Guns

Dixon has promised not to limit gun laws or "tear apart our Second Amendment." 

The Republican candidate publicly opposes "red-flag" gun confiscation rules, which allow families to petition judges to take away someone's guns if they are dangerous.

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Dixon also supports "constitutional carry," which would allow residents to carry certain concealed guns without requiring permits and requisite training. 

Term limits and financial disclosures

In October 2021, Dixon signed a term-limits pledge backed by the nonpartisan group U.S. Term Limits. In doing so, she agreed to support calls for a U.S. Constitutional convention to enact term limits for members of Congress. 

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