GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will serve a second term as Michigan governor, with the Associated Press and NBC News saying she defeated Republican challenger Tudor Dixon.
During a victory speech Wednesday morning, Whitmer thanked all of those who helped during the campaign and said she was looking forward to governing for the next four years.
“Over the next four years, let’s build a Michigan where every person is treated with dignity, can enjoy their personal freedoms and chart their own path forward towards prosperity. I promise to be a governor for all of Michigan. I promise to work with anyone who wants to get things done and compete and win against anyone. We are going to move this state forward and I’m excited about the work we will continue to do together. So, I thank all of you for the great opportunity ahead of us. Michigan’s future is bright, and we are about to step on the accelerator,” Whitmer said Wednesday morning.
Republican candidate Tudor Dixon released a statement shortly after Whitmer’s speech saying she called the governor Wednesday morning to concede the race and wish her well.
“Michigan’s future success rests not in elected officials or government, but all of us. It is incumbent upon all of us to help our children read, support law enforcement, and grow our economy,” Dixon said in the statement. “Thank you to our volunteers and supporters for working so hard to forge a better Michigan. We came up short, but we will never stop fighting for our families.”
AP called the race — which came amid a close race and unexpectedly high voter turnout — around 1:20 a.m. Wednesday. NBC News followed suit with its projection of a Whitmer victory about 10 minutes later.
“Tonight, Michiganders across the state made their voices heard to re-elect Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist so they can continue building on their historic progress investing in public education, strengthening infrastructure, fixing the damn roads, growing the economy, and defending reproductive freedom,” Whitmer campaign manager Preston Elliott said in a statement released around 1:30 a.m. “Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist are grateful for the overwhelming support of Michiganders from Monroe to Marquette and look forward to continuing to serve the great state of Michigan for four more years.”
Fox News had called the race in Whitmer’s favor shortly before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I never thought I’d be so happy about Fox News, but I’m glad they called this election, too,” Whitmer joked.
Whitmer made abortion one of her key campaign issues, filing legal challenges to stop enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade over the summer and promising to “fight like hell” to protect it. The issue was on Tuesday’s ballot, with voters approving a proposal to enshrine the right to abortions in the state constitution.
The governor also touted successes from her first term, including signing a record education budget and making progress on fixing the roads. Whitmer pointed out that with decades of underinvestment, it is going to take time to bring Michigan’s roads up to snuff but said that her work with the state Legislature and federal dollars from a President Joe Biden-backed infrastructure plan will help.
“I am so so happy to be here with all of you … and all the phenomenal Michiganders who worked so hard to make sure that our voices were heard, to make sure that we set our state on the course that is focused on the future; that is focused on solving problems, not demonizing others; that is focused on ensuring that Michigan is the place to build your life, to raise your family and to make a great, a great existence here,” Whitmer said around 1 a.m.
“The governor has led in very challenging times,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, told News 8. “We’re now seeing a renaissance in manufacturing in the state, we’re bringing jobs home, we’re fixing the damn roads, we’re focusing on our children and investing in schools, and the opportunity for people to get the training they need. We’re moving in the right direction. And I think we should keep it going.”
“I’m very proud to have a governor who is every single day on the job for us. Toughest of times, but the reality is that we in Michigan, we are coming back,” Stabenow later told the crowd at Whitmer’s election watch party.
This race was the first time both major parties put forth female candidates for governor in Michigan.
Dixon was a political newcomer, having previously been a businesswoman and broadcaster. She attacked Whitmer on the economy, crime and her handling of the pandemic, including the closure of in-person schooling.
While Whitmer held an early lead in polls, the race had narrowed in recent weeks as voters grew more concerned about the economy and inflation. The race drew eyes around the nation as a political bellwether, with observers looking at how a Republican challenger endorsed by former President Donald Trump would fare against a Democrat incumbent with ties to Biden in a swing state.
“(Whitmer) is an incredibly strong governor. She’s leaned into tough issues when it matters and she’s protective instead of reactive,” state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, herself up for reelection, said.