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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Tudor Dixon wins Trump endorsement in bid for Michigan governor

Republican Tudor Dixon won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump just four days from the Michigan primary. (Bridge photo by Yue Stella Yu)
  • Trump ends tease, calls Dixon ‘conservative warrior.’
  • Most of the Republican establishment has endorsed Dixon.
  • The GOP gubernatorial primary is Tuesday.

LANSING – Former President Donald Trump is backing Tudor Dixon for Michigan governor, cementing her frontrunner status in the Republican primary just days before voters will decide the heavily contested race.

Trump endorsed Dixon late Friday, calling her a “conservative warrior…ready to take on" Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who the former president blasted as "one of the worst governors in the nation."

Dixon is “pro-God, pro-Gun, and pro-Freedom, and she won’t be stopped,” Trump said in a statement. “She will stand up to the Radical Left as they try to indoctrinate our children.”

Dixon, 45, is a Norton Shores Republican and former steel industry executive who most recently worked in conservative media, hosting a daily news show on the Real America's Voice streaming network. 

She’ll make a “great Governor and has my Complete and Total Endorsement,” Trump wrote. “She will not let you down!”

Dixon has led most recent polls of the GOP race, but by relatively narrow margins, in her race against businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township, chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan, real estate broker Ryan Kelley of Allendale Township and retired preacher Ralph Rebandt of Farmington Hills. 

She welcomed Trump’s endorsement. “It is a great honor to … have the strength of our campaign to defeat Gretchen Whitmer further affirmed by his support,” Dixon said in a statement of her own. 

Trump hinted at the long-sought endorsement Friday morning, writing on his Truth Social site that he was taking a “good, hard look” at Dixon, whose supporters he said were “working hard for Endorsement/Victory.”

Dixon has praised Trump and echoed his false claims the 2020 election was rigged against him. But rivals have attacked her as "establishment" because she is backed by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who criticized Trump and resigned from his administration after the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol. 

Rinke, who has put $10 million of his own money into the race, has aired television ads bashing Dixon as the choice of "RINOs" — Republicans in name only — and another comparing himself to Trump as an outsider businessman unafraid to fight Democrats.

Soldano had courted a Trump endorsement through surrogates but last week publicly pleaded with the former president to "stay out" of the primary election, warning the ""the grassroots will be extremely, extremely unhappy" if he endorses "the establishment-backed" candidate.  

Earlier Friday, Soldano urged his supporters to “flood” Trump’s social media platform and discourage a Dixon endorsement. “We need to let the president know we are not happy,” Soldano wrote on Facebook. 

Experts have said a Trump endorsement could be a key factor in the race, but the last-minute nature of Friday’s announcement could limit the impact because many voters have already submitted absentee ballots. 

As of Monday, more than 589,813 Michigan voters had already returned absentee ballots to local clerks, according to Secretary of State data, which does not indicate whether those voters chose to fill out the Republican or Democratic side of the primary ballot (only one option is allowed).

Four years ago, about 990,000 voters participated in the Republican primary. Another 1.1 million Michiganders cast their ballots in the Democratic primary, which was won by Whitmer, who is seeking re-election this year but is not opposed in the primary this time around. 

The DeVos family of west Michigan endorsed Dixon in late May. She’s also backed by Right to Life of Michigan, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, former Gov. John Engler and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, and U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who battled with Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, endorsed Dixon earlier Friday. So did Ben Carson, a Detroit native who served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Trump.  

A group of nine-Trump endorsed legislative and congressional candidates on Thursday sent the former president a letter asking him not to work with Besty DeVos because she is backing other GOP candidates in their races. 

"There is a war going on for the soul of the GOP in Michigan, with Trump-endorsed candidates on one side and the establishment DeVos side on the other," they wrote in the letter, posted online by state Senate candidate Mike Detmer of Howell. 

Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, a Trump loyalist, has also argued DeVos is working against the former president in Michigan.

DeVos responded with her own letter to Trump, according to  Lansing-based MIRS subscription news. She called claims of working against Trump “fake news” people are spreading for “personal gain." 

In the letter, DeVos noted her family is also supporting some candidates Trump endorsed, including congressional incumbents McClain and John Moolenaar. She urged Trump to join her in supporting Dixon "to make sure" Republicans can defeat Whitmer this fall. 

Dixon has made education a key plank of her campaign, vowing to stop liberal “indoctrination” in public schools and implement a Devos-backed scholarship program that would help students pay for private schools. 

Betsy DeVos resigned from the Trump administration after Jan. 6, 2021, riots, calling Trump’s “rhetoric” a contributing factor in the violent protests. Devos has said she and other cabinet members had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

The family knows “that Betsy DeVos and I differ on that,” Dixon told Bridge Michigan last month, standing by Trump despite the DeVos endorsement. 

In tweets following the 2020 contest, Dixon claimed the election was stolen and accused Democrats of "obvious" and "sloppy" voter fraud.

In a May gubernatorial debate, Dixon said she believes Trump won Michigan in 2020 despite his 154,188-vote loss to Democratic President Joe Biden, contradicting findings from former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the state Senate Oversight Committee, both of whom investigated claims but found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Trump praised Dixon in February, calling her a “very special” candidate when her campaign paid $7,342 to host a fundraiser at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. And when he rallied with supporters in Macomb County in April, Trump called Dixon “fantastic” and “brilliant.”

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