Michigan governor candidates Whitmer, Dixon agree to debate, but dates uncertain

Democratic, Republican candidates accept televised debate invitations for different dates

Incumbent Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) is opposed by GOP nominee Tudor Dixon (right) in the 2022 gubernatorial election. Individual photos from Getty Images. (WDIV)

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for Michigan governor have expressed interest in debating ahead of November’s high-profile gubernatorial election, but it appears they haven’t yet agreed on a date.

Incumbent Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that her campaign accepted two invitations to debate on TV in October. According to the campaign, WOOD-TV, out of Grand Rapids, proposed a televised debate for Oct. 13, while WXYZ, WXMI and WSYM proposed a debate for Oct. 25.

Running against Whitmer is GOP candidate Tudor Dixon, a political newcomer who was formerly a contributor to the conservative online news program America’s Voice News. Whitmer’s campaign said the debates ahead of the general election would give Michigan voters an “opportunity to see the clear contrast between candidates.”

In response to the Whitmer campaign’s announcement, Dixon said Wednesday that she looks forward to debating Gov. Whitmer, but doesn’t agree with the proposed debate dates accepted by Whitmer.

Republican Dixon expressed concern that the proposed debate dates technically occur after absentee voting begins. Dixon tweeted that the “debates must start before voting begins,” arguing that Gov. Whitmer is trying to “hide” from the voters.

Michigan’s general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Voters choosing to vote by mail can begin receiving their mail-in ballots 40 days before Election Day -- which would be Sept. 29 for this year’s election; two weeks before the first proposed gubernatorial debate accepted by Whitmer.

Absentee voters can turn their ballots in anytime before 8 p.m. on Election Day, but those ballots won’t be counted until Election Day. All registered voters in Michigan are allowed to apply for an absent voter ballot. Click here to learn more about Michigan’s vote-by-mail system, and how to apply for an absent voter ballot.

It is currently unclear if Dixon’s campaign has declined to participate in the proposed debates that were accepted by Whitmer.

Dixon’s campaign announced Wednesday afternoon that the Republican candidate has officially accepted two invitations to debate. Dixon’s campaign accepted WOOD-TV’s “originally proposed date” for a debate on Sept. 20, the campaign said, and an invitation from WXYZ to debate on Oct. 17 or Oct. 24.

Dixon’s campaign said they also proposed Sept. 27 and Sept. 29 as potential dates for WOOD-TV’s televised debate.

None of the dates accepted by Dixon’s campaign or Whitmer’s campaign align with one another.

“The Dixon campaign is also extending an invitation to the Whitmer campaign to negotiate mutually agreeable dates directly,” a press release reads.

Last week, Dixon announced that she selected Michigan State House Rep. Shane Hernandez, a Republican from Port Huron, as her running mate. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist is once again running alongside Whitmer.

The face-off between Whitmer and Dixon represents the first time two women will be competing for the role of governor in Michigan history. Dixon is also the first woman to ever win the GOP nomination for Michigan governor. The GOP nominee defeated a small field of Republican gov. candidates in the Aug. primary and surged to a decisive win after securing the last-minute endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

From July: Full WDIV/Detroit News poll: 4 biggest takeaways from Michigan voters heading into elections


About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.