Where Michigan attorney general foes Dana Nessel and Matthew DePerno stand
- Dana Nessel is the state’s first openly LGBTQ statewide officeholder, a progressive Democrat who focuses on civil rights and consumer protections
- Matthew DePerno is a Trump-backed attorney who made his name challenging the state’s presidential election results in 2020
- Nessel says DePerno, who is under investigation, is not a serious candidate. DePerno vows criminal investigations of Nessel and others if he wins.
Republican Matthew DePerno will face Democrat incumbent Dana Nessel in the Michigan Attorney General race on Nov. 8.
DePerno and Nessel have not debated this campaign season. Nessel refused to do so, citing a pending criminal investigation that, among other things, is looking into whether DePerno was part of an election conspiracy involving voting tabulators. Nessel also said she did not want to give a platform to someone who is “not a serious candidate,” given his ongoing efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Michigan.
DePerno has sharply criticized Nessel and other statewide Democrats for their handling of the COVID pandemic and has vowed to launch criminal probes of their conduct if elected.
Bridge Michigan has reported on both candidates' goals, stances and controversies during the 2022 campaign season.
- Matthew DePerno: MAGA favorite under investigation may be next attorney general
- Matthew DePerno: What to know about Michigan GOP attorney general candidate
- Firm: Michigan AG hopeful DePerno fired over ‘padded,’ false billings
- Who is running for attorney general in Michigan in 2022
- Dana Nessel: Court wins, self-inflicted wounds mark term as attorney general
- Dana Nessel: What to know about Michigan Democratic attorney general
- Records: Dana Nessel made security sign non-disclosure deals; union balked
Here's what to know about them:
Republican Matthew DePerno
DePerno, 53, is a Portage-based tax attorney but also represented former state Rep. Todd Courser in a sex scandal cover-up case.
DePerno, a favorite of former President Donald Trump, first gained acclaim among MAGA conservatives after persistently and unsuccessfully disputing the results of Michigan's 2020 presidential election with unfounded challenges to Joe Biden’s win.
DePerno raised nearly $40,000 for an "Election Fraud Defense Fund," but has not disclosed what he did with the money.
He's never held public office but rode Trump's endorsement to win the Republican Party nomination over two candidates who served in the state Legislature.
DePerno's campaign states he's focused on conducting a forensic audit of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan, wants to prosecute Nessel and other state leaders for "all the damage they have done," enforce a 1931 state ban on abortions that is currently suspended, and ensure that the voices of conservative parents are heard in public schools.
He largely gained fame through this unyielding support of the former president. Trump’s endorsement of DePerno is the first thing visitors see on his campaign website.
Audit 2020 election
DePerno, a self-described constitutional conservative, is a leading advocate for thoroughly auditing Michigan's 2020 presidential election. If elected, DePerno vows to "prosecute the people who corrupted the 2020 election and allowed fraud to permeate the entire election system."
Election officials, courts and even a Republican-led legislative review dismissed all claims that there was election fraud of any significance during that presidential election.
Attacking COVID restrictions
According to DePerno's campaign, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Nessel "instituted extreme mandates" during the COVID-19 pandemic that "devastated businesses and stopped kids from learning."
If elected, DePerno wants to end pandemic-related mandates and "go after public and private institutions that uphold radical government outreach."
Outlaw Critical Race Theory
One of DePerno's goals is to outlaw classroom teaching of Critical Race Theory, an academic framework that argues that racism goes beyond individual acts of bias; and is baked into U.S. legal systems, institutions and policies. CRT is taught mainly at the university level.
The Michigan Association of School Boards has said it does not know of any K-12 schools in the state teaching the theory, though one school district — Detroit — acknowledged it uses it.
According to DePerno's campaign, he would also end Critical Race Theory teachings in "employment situations."
On social media and in forums, DePerno has said that if elected he would enforce the state's 1931 ban on abortion.
Should Proposal 3, a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights into the Michigan Constitution, pass next week, the battle over the 1931 law would become moot.
Discord has marked DePerno's career as an attorney and he's one of several people the state is investigating in an alleged Michigan vote tabulator tampering scheme.
Trouble at law firms
In 2005, DePerno was fired from a law firm after colleagues alleged he "padded" client billings for personal and professional benefit.
DePerno sued the firm over his firing and denied the allegations in court but previously told Bridge he could not discuss details because of a confidential settlement.
DePerno fought over client records at another law firm and was accused of assaulting a client amid a fee dispute, according to court records Bridge reviewed.
Vote tampering allegations
DePerno is one of nine people being investigated by the state of Michigan for an alleged vote tabulator tampering scheme. Nessel's office began the investigation in February before DePerno became her opponent. When DePerno captured the Republican nomination, Nessel’s office handed the case over to an independent special prosecutor to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
Close ties to Trump
From echoing unfounded claims about the 2020 presidential election to flying out for a fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., DePerno has banked on Trump for a bump in the AG race.
DePerno's ties to Trump go back to Jan. 6, 2021, when he met a top aide of the former president "around the time" protesters swarmed the U.S. Capitol and attempted to stop congressional certification of President Joe Biden's election.
An August report by the Washington Post found that a forensic data firm retained by DePerno and other allies of Trump was paid to obtain and provide information from Michigan's county election systems and other battleground states during an effort to overturn his 2020 loss.
Democrat Dana Nessel
Nessel, 53, is a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor and the first openly LGBTQ person to hold statewide office.
Nessel became well known for her work on a landmark case that struck down Michigan's longstanding ban on same-sex marriage.
In her first term as AG, Nessel has focused on a mix of consumer and progressive issues. She investigated the Catholic Church for sexual abuse, pursued a losing battle to close Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, and sought to advance investigations into the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal at Michigan State University.
Nessel also started new investigative units and worked to expand criminal expungement.
In her first term, Nessel’s office won convictions in the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, opened an investigation into misformation around the 2020 presidential election and created a hate crimes unit.
Here are some of the issues she's campaigned on.
Nessel supports abortion rights and has been outspoken in saying her office will not prosecute anyone for getting or giving the procedure should the 1931 statute banning abortion go back into effect.
Nessel called the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to overturn Roe v Wade "shocking" and "unnerving." After the ruling, Nessel's office warned people in a July 5 consumer alert against sharing reproductive information on apps that track their menstrual cycle.
Consumer protection and civil rights
This campaign season, Nessel has highlighted her office's work on consumer protection and protecting vulnerable citizens from scams, sexual assault, and COVID-19-related price gouging. She has stepped in to challenge state utility rate hikes, and established a unit that prosecutes hate crimes and reviews conviction integrity.
Changing the state’s federal stance
In the past decade, state attorney general offices across much of the nation have been more active in joining together to support or challenge a range of court decisions or laws, from abortion to healthcare, environmental protections and immigration.
When first in office, Nessel took quick action to alter or change Michigan’s position on a number of hot-button national issues on which she differed from her Republican predecessor Bill Schuette. Nessel joined a suit to protect the Affordable Care Act, and pulled out of cases supported by conservatives relating to abortion, LGBTQ rights and the separation of church and state.
When Nessel first ran for attorney general in 2018, she brashly vowed to sue the Trump administration "all day, every day" if elected.
While in office, Nessel joined lawsuits challenging the administration's handling of international students' residency, energy efficiency standards and religious exemptions.
Nessel's supporters admire her bluntness, but some of her comments and behavior have provided fodder to critics.
Drag queens in schools
In June, Nessel came under fire from conservatives after she jokingly remarked that she wanted a "drag queen for every school." The comments came during a speech in which she accused Republicans of running on "fake issues" about gender
Within weeks, state Republican lawmakers introduced legislation allowing parents to sue schools for exposing their children to drag queens.
Related: Drag queens to Michigan politicians: Leave us out of your election-year drama
Flint water crisis
Nessel's office inherited pending criminal cases flowing from the Flint water crisis. The Democratic AG created a firestorm when she dropped those charges in 2019, stating that her predecessor, Schuette, had botched the investigation.
Nessel then created a Flint Water Crisis prosecution team led by Solicitor Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who pursued a new investigation. Indictments were issued but the Michigan Supreme Court delivered a huge blow to the case when it dismissed the charges because they came from a secret one-person grand jury.
Too much to drink
In November of last year, Nessel needed help getting home from the Michigan-Michigan State football game after she admitted to pre-gaming a bit too hard on Bloody Mary’s.
Nessel later apologized in a Facebook post. “Sorry to all the people who have supported me for letting you down,” she wrote. “I will try to do better.”
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