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GOP gubernatorial candidates debate in Livingston County

The first debate for candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Michigan governor took place Thursday night at Crystal Gardens in Genoa Township, although the man many consider to be the front-runner was a no-show.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig pulled out of the event, sponsored by the Livingston County Republican Party, claiming he had another speaking engagement. However, organizers say Craig had previously committed to be at the event, and had even reserved a table for supporters.

The remaining candidates; former conservative news host Tudor Dixon, real estate broker Ryan Kelley, pastor Ralph Rebandt, chiropractor Garrett Soldano, state police Capt. Michael Brown, financial adviser Michael Markey and businessmen Perry Johnson and Kevin Rinke, all agreed they were in opposition to Roe vs Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized a woman’s right to an abortion, but differed over whether there should be any exceptions for rape and incest.

Dixon, Johnson, Kelley, Rebandt and Soldano said there should be no exceptions, while Brown, Markey and Rinke were in favor of them. That issue will become pertinent if the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe, which is expected next month, a result of which be to trigger a 1931 Michigan law that band abortions in all circumstances except to protect the life of the mother.

Many of the candidates also disagreed on the level of misinformation they were willing to perpetuate as to whether former President Donald Trump won the state’s 2020 election.

Trump, who has yet to endorse a candidate in August’s GOP primary, lost to Joe Biden by 154,000 votes in Michigan, but has made the false claims of mass fraud a prerequisite for his support.

While Dixon, Kelley, Rebandt and Soldano were fully on board with the lie that  Trump won Michigan, Brown and Markey were willing to admit he did not. Johnson and Rinke declined to take a position.

One area all of the candidates agreed on was in supporting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation similar to Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law. That law forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, but is seen by many educators and others as unfairly targeting gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender children and their families, while stifling freedom of expression.

The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will advance to challenge Whitmer in November.

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