Tudor Dixon, a conservative media personality with the political backing of Michigan’s powerful DeVos family, won the state’s Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
She will advance to the general election against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a first-term Democrat who was on the short list to be Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate in the summer of 2020.
In its final weeks, the primary became a race to win the backing of former President Donald J. Trump, who ultimately did endorse Ms. Dixon. But she didn’t wait for his formal support to air a TV ad of Mr. Trump praising her at a campaign rally and release internal polling showing that half the primary electorate thought Mr. Trump had already endorsed her.
Ms. Dixon emerged victorious from a five-person field that lost its two best-funded candidates in May after they were disqualified by a state canvassing board for turning in forged petition signatures.
A former commentator for the conservative media channel “Real America’s Voice,” Ms. Dixon, 45, was previously an actress and an executive at her family’s steel company. She has said she was roused to run for office out of her anger over Ms. Whitmer’s policies, especially pandemic shutdown orders that were among the nation’s strictest in the early months of Covid-19.
A mother of four school-age children, Ms. Dixon favors per-pupil education funding to follow students to any school they choose, including private schools. The policy aligns with the longtime priorities of the DeVos family, including Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s former education secretary.
At a debate in May, Ms. Dixon raised her hand when asked if she believed Mr. Trump had won Michigan in 2020, a race he in fact lost to President Biden by 154,000 votes. But on Sunday, after securing Mr. Trump’s endorsement, Ms. Dixon backed away from that position, saying instead she was concerned about “how the election was handled.” A lengthy review by Republicans in the State Senate in 2021 debunked the claims of Trump supporters that there was widespread fraud.
Ms. Dixon and the rest of the Republican field were relative unknowns in Michigan, with polling showing that two in five Republicans didn’t know or had no opinion of any of the candidates just two weeks before the election.
Her top rival, the self-funding former auto dealership owner Kevin Rinke, attacked Ms. Dixon as a tool of the DeVos family when Ms. DeVos said in June that she had sought to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Ms. DeVos endorsed Ms. Dixon’s campaign, and her family helped fund it, and a handwritten “Dear Mr. President” letter from Ms. DeVos to Mr. Trump last week appeared to have prompted his endorsement of Ms. Dixon.
Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor who gained political attention by organizing rallies against Ms. Whitmer’s pandemic mitigation efforts in 2020, urged Mr. Trump not to endorse Ms. Dixon. He said in a video message to Mr. Trump that after Jan. 6, the DeVos family “basically abandoned you, sir.”
And Ryan Kelley, a real estate broker, was arrested in June and charged with four misdemeanors for his actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Mr. Kelley pleaded not guilty and said he had joined rioters outside but had not entered the building. He predicted at the time that the publicity surrounding his arrest would help his campaign, though he did not raise enough money to air television ads.
Of the four leading candidates, three — Ms. Dixon, Mr. Kelley and Mr. Soldano — falsely said during the May debate that Mr. Trump had carried Michigan in 2020. Mr. Rinke said that there had been fraud, but that he could not be certain it was enough to flip the state to Mr. Trump.
Trip Gabriel contributed reporting.