LANSING — Former President Donald Trump sent a late and possibly decisive jolt into the Republican primary for governor when he endorsed Tudor Dixon Friday night.
“Tudor Dixon is a Conservative Warrior who built an impressive career in the steel industry while working with her fabulous father, who is now watching her proudly from above,” Trump said in a statement issued through his political action committee.
“She raised a beautiful family, and is ready to save Michigan. She’s pro-God, pro-Gun, and pro-Freedom, and she won’t be stopped! She will stand up to the Radical Left as they try to indoctrinate our children and is ready to take on one of the worst Governors in the nation.”
Analysts believe Trump’s endorsement will have a significant impact in the five-candidate race, even when many Republicans have already cast their ballots, with Tuesday’s election less than four days away.
Dixon, a Norton Shores businesswoman and former conservative TV commentator, has criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the areas of business and school closures and nursing home deaths.
She has also backed the false claim that Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election, which President Joe Biden won in Michigan by about 154,000 votes and defeated Trump in the national Electoral College 306 to 232.
Dixon said she was honored by the endorsement. “Gretchen Whitmer is focused on pleasing the union-boss financiers that pull her strings in Michigan and the far-left billionaires in New York and California that will fund her run for President,” Dixon said in a news release, referencing media speculation that Whitmer has national political ambitions. “She has left Michiganders behind.”
Dixon, a married mother of four school-age daughters, has made education a central part of her campaign.
At a debate, Dixon was the only candidate who did not favor large cuts to higher education, saying Michigan’s public universities are an important key to the state’s success. She also backs giving parents the option to use public funds to attend private schools, which may have helped Dixon win the support of Michigan’s wealthy and influential DeVos family.
Dixon’s campaign was energized and sent on an upward trajectory by the May announcement that Betsy DeVos, a former Michigan GOP chair who served as Education Secretary under Trump, her husband Dick DeVos, who was the 2006 Michigan Republican candidate for governor, and the extended DeVos clan had decided to back her.
The DeVos family and their allies pumped well over $1 million into political action committees that have paid for ads backing Dixon.
Trump made no mention of the DeVos family in his endorsement announcement.
Recent polls have shown Dixon with a slight lead or close behind, with many Republican voters still undecided.
But the DeVos endorsement also complicated the much more valuable Trump endorsement for Dixon. Betsy DeVos quit Trump’s cabinet the day after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which Trump appeared to encourage and did not move quickly to stop. DeVos later confirmed she had discussed with other cabinet members the possible use of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump from office.
Her endorsement by the DeVos family, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and legislative leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, prompted attacks from other candidates that she is too close to “the establishment,” which is seen as a disadvantage in a primary dominated by grassroots activists.
Still, if she wins Tuesday, Dixon could have trouble pivoting to a general election campaign in which she will need to attract votes from moderate Republicans and independents. She made national headlines this month when she told Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff that she believes a 14-year-old girl who gets raped by an uncle should carry a resulting pregnancy to term.
Trump announced his endorsement on top of others from national political figures: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ben Carson, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary under Trump, both endorsed Dixon on Friday.
The other Michigan GOP candidates are Ottawa County real estate broker Ryan Kelley, Farmington Hills retired pastor Ralph Rebandt, Oakland County businessman Kevin Rinke, and Kalamazoo chiropractor Garrett Soldano. Also, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig continues to campaign as a write-in candidate.
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