More than 150 Michigan Republicans launched a new campaign effort to boost the reelection prospects of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) against GOP opponent Tudor Dixon, who is backed by former President Trump.
Republicans for Whitmer is led by a leadership council of 35 Republicans from Michigan, including business leaders, former lawmakers and staff who served under former state GOP Govs. John Engler and Rick Snyder.
Bill Parfet, the chairman and CEO of commercial real estate company Northwood Group, said he was supporting Whitmer because she was seeking to build a common bridge between Democrats and Republicans.
“No more fighting,” Parfet said in a statement. ““Among those running for election in November, there exists a group of individuals — some Democrats, some Republicans — that are willing to work together to find a common middle-ground where progress can be made. … The best person to lead that effort is Governor Gretchen Whitmer.”
Whitmer, who has served as Michigan’s governor since 2019, appears to be gaining ground in her reelection bid against Dixon.
In a Detroit News-WDIV-TV poll published last week, Whitmer enjoyed a 13-point lead over Dixon, while 54 percent of respondents said they approve of Whitmer’s governorship.
Dixon is a former customer service agent and sales rep for her father’s Michigan Steel foundry who also describes herself as a “working mom” now fighting for Michiganders.
The GOP candidate has faced some criticism for her hardline anti-abortion positions, a hot-button issue in the midterm elections this year that is increasingly giving momentum to Democrats.
In July, Dixon said she would not support abortion in any case except to save the life of the mother, even when asked if that would apply to a 14-year-old rape victim.
Judy Frey, a moderate Republican from Grand Rapids who joined the Republicans for Whitmer group, said she backs the governor because of her support for a ballot question that will be included in the November election. The question will allow voters to decide if they want to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.
Whitmer “knows how to govern. She’s done it, she’s experienced, she uses compromise, she uses empathy,” Frey said in a promotional video for the new group. “She gets my vote this year.”
The Republicans for Whitmer effort marks something of a shift in Michigan politics, which recently saw a foiled far-right attempt to kidnap the governor for her pandemic policies.
The state is also divided between Republican control of the state legislature and Whitmer’s Democratic executive branch, which have feuded over abortion laws after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the nearly 50-year constitutional right to abortion.
Still, Joe Schwarz, a former Republican U.S. congressman from Michigan, said “Whitmer has proven herself as a strong leader who is fighting to make Michigan a better place for everyone — regardless of your party affiliation.”
“During her time as governor, she has focused on growing our economy with major investments, strengthening our skilled workforce, investing in the education of our children, and making government work for us,” Schwarz said in a statement. “I know she will continue to advocate on behalf of hardworking Michiganders and that’s why I’m proud to support her for re-election this fall.”