Debate recap: Candidates for Michigan governor speak to voters one last time before Election Day

Whitmer, Schuette squared off Wednesday night in downtown Detroit

Schuette and Whitmer shake hands at the conclusion of a gubernatorial debate held in Detroit. (WDIV)
Schuette and Whitmer shake hands at the conclusion of a gubernatorial debate held in Detroit. (WDIV)

DETROIT – Major party candidates for Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette took the stage Wednesday night for the final gubernatorial debate before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The debate was held at Local 4 studios in Detroit and moderated by Kimberly Gill and Devin Scillian. Watch highlights from the debate here.

Both candidates delivered opening statements that echoed familiar talking points.

Whitmer emphasized her experience as a legislator who was able to reach across the aisle and accomplish concrete goals such as expanding Medicaid coverage. Schuette advocated lower taxes and lower auto insurance rates, while attacking Whitmer as a candidate who would increase taxes and reverse Michigan’s economic growth.

Those who have been following this race would recognize the rhetoric in this debate immediately. It is therefore unlikely that Whitmer or Schuette changed many minds Wednesday night. Despite this, the candidates had the opportunity to motivate voters to get to the polls on Nov. 6.

Bill Schuette seemed to follow President Trump’s midterm campaign strategy of stoking fears about immigration. He claimed Gretchen Whitmer and her running mate Garlin Gilchrist want to abolish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and DHS (Department of Homeland Security), turning Michigan into a “sanctuary state.”

Whitmer denied these claims and called Schuette out for spending taxpayer dollars on opposing same-sex marriage in court. Among her other claims were the contention that Schuette balked in the face of the Flint water crisis and is a climate change denier.

Predictably, with all these attacks, the debate got heated at points. Both candidates stretched their time limits and were politely scolded by the moderators as a result.

With the election less than two weeks away, the most interesting question after Wednesday night’s debate is: Which candidate most effectively utilized the event to mobilize their base? We’ll have to wait until Election Day to find out the answer.