LANSING, MI – In the first major debate ahead of Michigan’s 2022 gubernatorial race, eight of 10 Republican candidates for governor faced off Thursday evening to debate everything from school funding to abortion.
It was the first chance Michigan voters got to hear the GOP candidates discuss their views and be put under the spotlight on controversial topics among members of the Republican Party, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
Some debate topics did little to separate the GOP candidates’ positions, like when asked their stance on abortion legislation if Roe V. Wade were to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Each candidate supported abortion bans, though some individuals noted various exceptions related to rape, incest or the life of the mother.
Other topics more clearly split the Republican candidates for governor, like a question about who won the 2020 presidential election in Michigan. President Joe Biden received more than 2.8 million votes in Michigan compared to less than 2.65 million votes for former President Donald Trump, according to official election results
In a lightening-round question of whether Trump legitimately won Michigan in the 2020 election, four candidates answered “yes” — Tudor Dixon, Ryan Kelley, Ralph Rebandt and Garrett Soldano.
Also, in a surprise vote by the Michigan Legislature this week, the House and Senate approved a ballot proposal for the Nov. 8 election that would reform term limits for state lawmakers and set financial transparency requirements for state officeholders.
The vote came one day after the campaign group that introduced the measures held a press conference where they urged lawmakers to approve their proposal, a move that would save them from having to gather 425,049 valid petition signatures by July 11 to get the proposal on the November ballot.
Here’s what you missed this week in Michigan politics:
Schools, COVID and Trump divide GOP candidates at Michigan’s first gubernatorial debate
All 10 candidates who legally qualified for the August 2022 Republican primary ballot were invited to participate in the debate at the Livingston County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner Thursday.
In attendance were eight of those candidates: Mike Brown, Tudor Dixon, Perry Johnson, Ryan Kelley, Michael Markey Jr., Ralph Rebandt, Kevin Rinke and Garrett Soldano. James Craig and Donna Brandenburg did not attend.
More than 600 individuals packed into Crystal Gardens Banquet Center in Howell to hear from the candidates Thursday evening. The event was also livestreamed by WWMT and Sinclair Broadcasting.
RELATED: 5 takeaways from Republican candidates for governor in first 2022 debate
Improving Michigan’s education system is a top priority for the majority of Republican candidates seeking to challenge incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.
Michigan’s schools played a significant role in Thursday’s debate, with numerous questions and answers on the candidates’ priorities for education, if elected governor. Candidates were asked the first thing they would do as governor to help children make up for the learning loss they suffered under COVID-driven school closures.
All eight candidates said they would be willing to sign legislation that prohibits early elementary school students in grades K-3 from “being taught sexualized curriculum commonly cited in the media as the ‘don’t say gay’ legislation similar to what was recently passed in Florida.”
Michigan voters will decide on revised term limits for state lawmakers in November
Michigan voters will decide a question on the November 2022 ballot that would reform term limits for state lawmakers and require financial disclosures from state officeholders.
The Michigan House and Senate both approved a ballot proposal Tuesday that would amend the state’s constitution. The proposed change to term limits would mean an individual could not be elected as a state legislator for terms totaling more than 12 years in both the House and the Senate.
That is a slightly shorter stint than the total 14 years in office allowed under the state’s current term limits. However, instead of separately limiting the number of years lawmakers could serve in the House and the Senate, the proposed amendment would allow elected officials to serve all 12 years in either chamber, or in any combination.
In addition to the term limit change, the proposal would also require state lawmakers to file an annual financial disclosure report with the state.
If approved by voters, elected officials would have to disclose their assets, income and liabilities, as well as their involvement in any businesses, nonprofits, labor organizations or educational institutions.
Proponents of the proposal say the term limit changes would stop lawmakers from using their time in office as a stepping stone to campaign for higher office. Opponents say the reform would only benefit lobbyists and special interest groups by lengthening the amount of time a legislator can spend in either the House or Senate.
Both the House and the Senate overcame the two-thirds threshold needed to approve the resolution for placement on the November ballot. The resolution passed 76-28 in the House, and by a 26-6 vote in the Senate.
Abortion-rights protestors interrupt speeches during Michigan AG visit to Detroit
Abortion continues to be a hot topic in Michigan after news last week of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision guaranteeing abortion rights nationwide.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was scheduled to speak alongside an abortion provider in Detroit Tuesday, but she left unexpectedly after protestors interrupted the speaking engagement hosted by the Michigan Democratic Party.
Abortion-rights protestors at the event accused the Democratic Party of being “passive” over the potential Supreme Court decision.
RELATED: Bill would ban telemedicine abortions in Michigan
Demonstrator Rebecca Paris said she attended the event to put public pressure on Nessel to act, worried over the time period between a potential Supreme Court decision and a possible November ballot proposal that would protect abortion rights in Michigan.
“I’m not waiting,” Paris said. “I’m not going to let them funnel us to the ballots for another 50 years to do nothing.”
If the Supreme Court ruling fell, Nessel, a prominent Democrat, has pledged not to enforce a 1931 Michigan law on the books banning all abortions, except in limited cases where they are necessary to preserve the mother’s life.
Michigan AG says she won’t enforce state’s ‘Draconian’ 1931 abortion law
On Sunday, May 8, Nessel appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where she described Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban as a “Draconian law” that she refuses to enforce.
“This incredibly Draconian and strict 1931 law would criminalize abortion in this state with virtually no exceptions,” Nessel said Sunday, joining host Chuck Todd to discuss the Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade. “There’s no exception for rape, incest. There’s no exceptions for medical emergencies.”
Nessel said abortion would become illegal in Michigan “immediately” once, and if, Roe v. Wade is overturned, because of the 91-year-old law banning abortion.
“I refuse to enforce this Draconian law,” she added.
While Nessel’s office won’t enforce the law, she cannot prevent any of Michigan’s 83 county prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges against those involved in an abortion.
Top Democrats, like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have also turned to other strategies to safeguard abortion access, issuing an executive order in an attempt to make the procedure a constitutional right in the state and suing prosecutors to prevent them from enforcing the state’s 1931 abortion ban.
State Police expand investigation into alleged voting machine tampering after 2020 election
At least one new Michigan county has been added to the state’s ongoing investigation into whether a third party gained unauthorized access to voting equipment data after the 2020 election.
The investigation, which launched in February, stems from claims by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that an unauthorized third party was allowed to access vote tabulator components and technology in Roscommon County in 2020.
Two weeks ago, Michigan State Police seized a voting tabulator machine in Irving Township of Barry County, an hour west of Lansing, during an April 29 raid, local officials confirmed to MLive.
State police declined to name any municipalities that have been involved in the investigation other than Roscommon County, but confirmed the state is still investigating the initial report from Roscommon.
“We have gone to other areas during the course of this investigation but, at this point, it is an open investigation and we’re not discussing areas we’ve been to, or how many areas we suspect or anything else for that matter,” Carroll told MLive. “All we are confirming at this point is that we are investigating the initial report in Roscommon.”
Carroll said the investigation has nothing to do with the results of the November 2020 election. The state is investigating whether a third party had access to election data after the presidential election took place, he said.
Lawmaker who pleaded guilty to second drunken driving charge sentenced to probation, community service
State Rep. Mary Cavanagh has been sentenced to probation, community service and fines after she pleaded guilty to drunken driving earlier this year.
Cavanagh, D-Redford Township, was sentenced to two years probation and two days of community service in lieu of jail time, court records show. She also has to complete a 10-day work program, pay fines totaling about $3,100 and must appear to sobriety court.
Cavanagh, 30, pleaded guilty in April to operating while intoxicating, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The charge stems from a Feb. 25 arrest in which she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 – more than twice the legal limit for alcohol – and was driving with two flat tires.
A criminal background check indicates this is Cavanagh’s second arrest for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor operating while intoxicated charge following an arrest on May 23, 2015. The charge resulted in Cavanagh being sentenced to a year of probation.
Cavanagh, who is currently serving her first term representing the 10th state House District, has announced plans to run for a seat in the Michigan Senate.
Lost in the mail? Pentagon reply to Michigan governor goes AWOL
Did the Pentagon’s response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer regarding pollution cleanup at a former Air Force base get lost in the mail?
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) missed a 12-month deadline to reach an agreement with the state of Michigan over pollution cleanup at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. The Pentagon claims it responded to Whitmer last July, but state officials say they didn’t receive the DOD’s letter until April – nine months later.
Last year, Whitmer invoked a provision in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a bid to make the U.S. Air Force to comply with state PFAS cleanup standards at the former base.
Under terms of the NDAA provision, the Pentagon had until March 31 to reach an agreement with Michigan or explain to Congress why one couldn’t be reached. Neither of those two things have occurred.
Whitmer’s office and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) say they are trying to determine what happened and why the letter first arrived in an April email to a departmental staff member rather than as a formal reply directly to the governor.
The governor’s office provided screenshots to MLive of emails between EGLE and and Air Force civil engineering program staff in which the EGLE site manager for Wurtsmith, Beth Place, requested a copy of the letter following discussions about its whereabouts with Air Force technical staff.
The communications indicate the Department of the Air Force also did not have a copy of the DOD letter until last month.
The Pentagon’s response was supplied to MLive this week by the Department of Defense, which drew attention to the fact it was signed digitally on July 26, 2021 by Stacy A. Cummings, a former assistant defense secretary who was appointed to a NATO support and procurement agency last August.
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