Right out of the gate, Whitmer attacked Schuette, calling the election a stark choice for voters.
“Bill Schuette and I couldn’t be more different,” she said. “He shows up when the cameras are on, but when they’re not, he makes decisions that hurt us.”
The final debate comes as polls in the race have shown consistent leads for Whitmer as Democrats hope for a blue wave election cycle and Republicans look for messages that will connect with voters. The gap between the two candidates may be narrowing, however.
So Wednesday's televised debate became a battle of Whitmer trying to solidify and grow her lead and Schuette trying to gain more ground and momentum in the final two weeks of the campaign.
Here are the top six things we learned from the debate:
- Schuette answered most of the questions, whether it was roads, auto insurance, job training or drinking water issues by saying that he would cut taxes while Whitmer would raise them. "My opponent, when she says she wants to fix the darned roads, she wants to raise your darned taxes." He also in most answers reminded voters that while Whitmer was in the Legislature for 14 years, she passed on three bills." Whitmer retorted, "The saying is we're going to fix the damn roads. Phony talking points don't fix the problem."
- On the issue of the $200 annual permit price tag that Nestle pays the state to pump millions of gallons of water a day to bottle and sell to the general public, Whitmer said she didn't think the company should extract and bottle any more water from the state. Schuette said that any decision on Nestle would have to be done "on solid science."
- On the 40,000 people who were falsely accused of unemployment benefits fraud because of a state computer glitch, Whitmer said it was "cruel and an abuse of power" for the state to continue to try and block those accused from getting fully reimbursed. Schuette said the recipients should be made whole and "this whole lawsuit is the wrong approach," even though his office is defending the state's position to deny some of the benefits because some of the victims didn't file their lawsuits in a timely fashion.
- Whitmer said she would join other governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance "until we have a president who will get us back into the Paris Climate Accord." Schuette said climate change is real, but that every nation needs to be a part of the solution.
- Zingers of the night: Schuette compared Whitmer to Granholm so many times during the debate that he created the newest mashup. "That’s what happens if Jennifer uh, Gretchen Whitmer becomes governor. It's easy to confuse them." And when Schuette answered a question about skilled trades training by saying that Whitmer would raise taxes on Michiganders, she replied, "“The attorney general has the same talking points for every question. You forgot to use the word ‘extreme’ in that one, Bill.”
Outside the studio, a couple of hundred union members, environmental activists, students and one giant papier mache Schuette head showed up before the debate to show support for Whitmer. And she returned the favor, telling the crowd: "I’m here because you’re important to me. I'm running for governor because I love you and I want you to have a good life in this state."
Michigan November Election Voters' Guide
Michigan's general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Use the Free Press' voter guide to learn about the candidates in races up and down the ballot in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
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