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Debate recap: Republican gubernatorial candidates square off in Detroit

Primary candidates go after Schuette while he looks on to general election

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DETROIT – Local 4 hosted the Republican candidates for Michigan governor Thursday night in a debate that covered numerous issues including auto insurance rates, infrastructure, schools, mass shootings and water resources.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was on the offensive from his opening statement, accusing Attorney General Bill Schuette of failing to answer voters' questions on the important issues. State Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines followed suit, but Schuette seemed unbothered by the verbal jabs. Rather, he looked on to the general election, closing almost every one of his statements with an attack on Gretchen Whitmer and the Democrats.

Colbeck touted his experience as an engineer as a tool for providing innovative solutions to complex problems, while Hines stressed his status as a political outsider who would break a cycle of career politicians occupying the governor's office.

Infrastructure

Schuette proposed the following steps for fixing Michigan's roads:

  • "A complete review of the Michigan Dept. of Transportation and how they allocate dollars"
  • "Warranties and guarantees" for roads
  • Use money saved by the repeal of the prevailing wage law to fix roads
  • Prioritize roads in Michigan's budget
  • Calley took issue with Schuette's response to the infrastructure question, arguing that voters deserve better answers than "review[ing] a department" and "mak[ing] priorities."

    Incentives

    Calley also took Schuette to task over the issue of business incentives. When asked what incentives he would and would not condone as governor, Schuette said he would reduce income taxes and eliminate the personal property tax. Calley pointed out that Schuette, though he did discuss economic growth, did not actually answer the question.

    Water resources

    When it came to water issues, the candidates echoed similar sentiments about the unique stewardship responsibility that the Great Lakes bestow upon Michigan. Calley and Hines highlighted the importance of stopping invasive species like carp from entering the lakes. Schuette asserted himself as the agricultural jobs candidate and said Michigan needs to stop diverting water resources outside the state. Colbeck pointed out the importance of maintaining pipelines.

    None of the candidates, however, broached the continuing Flint water crisis or Nestlé's $200 per year water deal with the state.

    So who won?

    I don't think there was a clear winner on Thursday.

    Though Calley started strong, it is difficult to maintain such momentum through an hour-long debate. He got his digs in on Schuette early, but the attorney general was able to regain some ground later by touting his endorsements along with his pro-police and pro-firefighter background.

    Colbeck provided a unique engineering perspective and repeatedly referenced his anti-crony capitalism stance. Hines, on the other hand, looked a little nervous and seemed to be reaching for answers on a few issues, but he was able to effectively promote his Trumpian status as an outsider.

    Ultimately, the debate is unlikely to change much in the polls. Schuette is still the favorite to be the Republican gubernatorial candidate in November, but a lot can change between now and the Aug. 7 primary. Perhaps Calley and the other candidates can make up some ground in the interim.

    You can watch the full Michigan Republican gubernatorial debate here.