Schuette, Whitmer debate final time; clash over topics

Bill Schuette (R) and Gretchen Whitmer (L) appear in final debate before election.

The final debate between Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer is in the books and the two took an aggressive approach to second go around on stage.

In Detroit, the duo started the night swinging.

Whitmer came out on the attack and used part of her opening statements to draw attention to her opponent’s past.

“We have a stark choice to make in this race for governor. When no one is watching, he makes decisions that hurts Michigan,” Whitmer said. “He supports Betsy DeVos’ agenda. Bill Schuette wasted millions of dollars going to the Supreme Court fighting against gay marriage.”

Schuette, talked about being raised by a single mother and said his vision for the state includes making Michigan more than a vacation spot.

“I want Michigan to be the place where people move,” he said.

The two tangled about the usual topics; healthcare, education and infrastructure funding.

Schuette consistently pivoted back to his mainstay of a platform of “My paycheck agenda" multiple times in the hour-long debate.

The Republican’s point came up after almost every question. When the two were asked about actual plans to find money for each of their infrastructure plans, their differences arose.

“I know families across Michigan are tired of paying the Republican road tax,” Whitmer said while referring to people paying to fix their cars after hitting potholes or other damage-causing infrastructure problems. “I want you to think about this. There are buses full of kids going over bridges that are replaced with temporary supports.”

Meanwhile, Schuette said he will "walk right into Washington" to ensure Michigan gets more federal funding. He also laid out his plan for an audit of the Michigan Department of Transportation and mandate guarantees on roads that are fixed. Schuette said his plan won’t raise taxes.

“Her plan to ‘fix the darn roads’ will really just raise your darn taxes,” he said.

Whitmer fired back, “I want to correct the Attorney General. It’s called, 'fix the damn roads.' Saying you’re going to walk through the front doors of the White House doesn’t fix anything.”

Climate change was a new topic these two candidates were asked about and the answers shined a light on the difference ideas.

“I will enter Michigan into the U.S. Climate Alliance until we have a President that gets us back into the Paris Accord,” Whitmer said. “It’s time for us to grow our renewable portfolio.”

Schuette refuted Whitmer’s claims that he doesn’t believe in climate change, but said other countries in the world need to participate in the climate change conversations.

“It can’t just be the United States of America, China needs to be part of this as well,” he said.

Then, he pivoted back to his platform and repeated some of the same talking points; using Whitmer’s plan for Michigan to act on climate change as a chance to plug her ideas for "more government and regulation."

“My plan will mean cutting taxes, which means more jobs,” Schuette said.

In the first debate, Whitmer brought up an idea to expand the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA); a law that’s been on the books in Michigan since the 1970s that aims to protect against discrimination. The Democrat said she wants to expand that to include the LGBTQ community.

“I believe it is time for Michigan to get on the right side of history,” Whitmer said. “Bigotry is bad for business and we deserve better.”

Her opponent did not explicitly say he wanted to expand the ELCRA, but broadly denounced discrimination.

“You treat everyone like a family,” he said, giving credit to his mom and sisters for instilling those values in him as a child. “We must have a state that’s free from discrimination.”

“Bill Schuette would be the most anti-LGBTQ community governor in the history,” rebutted Whitmer.

The two split on their support of ballot Proposal 2, which is known as the anti-gerrymandering proposal. Proposal 2 would create an independent citizens commission to draw political district lines in the state.

“I’m voting against Proposal 2,” Schuette said.

Whitmer used his stance as party attack and said she would be voting for the proposal.

“The system is rigged and that’s why he will vote against this,” she said.

Schuette did not stick to his allotted times for responses or rebuttals, and frequently was cut off by the moderators as they attempted to keep the debate on track. He also referred to his opponent, Gretchen Whitmer, as Jennifer Whitmer at one point. That raised questions whether it was on accident, or an attempt to draw comparisons to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Whitmer.

“It was just a slip of the tongue,” Schuette said post-debate. “It’s easy to get the two confused, their economic plans are so similar.”

“Bill Schuette needs to talk about my plans. He needs to learn my name,” Whitmer said in a post-debate interview as well.

The two debaters knew this was the last, large audience they would have to make their pitch to voters with less than two weeks to election day.

While Schuette and Whitmer both stuck mainly to their safe talking points, Whitmer offered more definitive answers to the questions proposed, but their final remarks had a clear message.

“We can do this. Michigan can win again,” Schuette said.

“Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, let’s get back to building bridges,” Whitmer said.

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