Gov. Whitmer, Dixon set good example, will debate on Oct. 13

One hour of debate is better than dueling campaign rallies

Michigan’s future is worth debating. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon agree, and the two will face each other on Oct. 13, reports WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, which will air the hourlong debate.

Whitmer skipped this year’s Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge, becoming the first governor to do so. Dixon showed up. It was fair to question if the two events were related. Was the governor worried a debate might break out?

But by week’s end, Whitmer and Dixon agreed to face each other. Attorney General Dana Nessel should follow suit and meet with her Republican challenger, Matt DePerno.

Whitmer has raised much more money than Dixon and holds a large lead. Yet Whitmer is not arguing that Dixon is “not a serious candidate,” as Nessel is with DePerno.

Dixon’s camp had wanted a debate earlier in the campaign season, before the 40-day window when no-reason absentee voting is allowed.

Oct. 13 is within that window, as voters can receive absentee ballots as of Sept. 29, according to Michigan’s election dates booklet. Such are the advantages of incumbency.

But people who vote early can change their votes for any reason, and the older ballot is spoiled. Ultimately, what happens on the debate stage will matter more than the timing of the debate.

While it is good that Whitmer has accepted the debate, Michigan’s current system still treats debates as a social custom, not a legal requirement. Even when a race could not be more important, such as the Gary Peters-John James U.S. Senate race was in 2020, sometimes debates don’t happen.

Debates are a public service, not a gift from the kindness of an incumbent’s heart.

Michigan law should treat them that way by making debate participation a requirement of candidacy.


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.