2024 Michigan elections: Harper challenges Slotkin to four Senate debates

32 min read

Tuesday, May 28

Tlaib suggests voters may withhold Biden votes

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib told a crowd this weekend that voters upset with President Joe Biden’s support of Israel “aren’t going to forget this in November.”

Tlaib, D-Detroit, made her remarks Saturday at the People’s Conference for Palestine, a three-day event in Detroit calling for Israel to stop its offensive in the region and for “an end to all U.S. aid for Israel.” Conservative outlets have accused the conference of supporting terrorist-aligned organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

As part of her speech, Tlaib slammed both Biden “and my colleagues in Congress” for not better supporting anti-war student protests at universities across the country.

“It is cowardly,” Tlaib added, “but we’re not gonna forget in November, are we?” 

Tlaib has long been a vocal opponent of Biden’s support for Israel as it continues its war against Hamas in Gaza. She was one of the handful of elected officials to urge voting “uncommitted” in Michigan’s February presidential primary as a way to protest Israel’s ongoing war.

About 13% of Michigan’s Democratic primary voters did end up voting “uncommitted” earlier this year, the effort seeing a large turn out in places like Dearborn and Hamtramck, cities with a heavy Muslim or Arab American populations.

Jordyn Hermani

Tuesday, May 28

Slotkin debuts first TV ad

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin has released her first television ad buy in her bid for the U.S. Senate, highlighting her CIA experience under the past presidential administrations of George W. Bush, a Republican, and Barack Obama, a Democrat.

The 30-second clip is part of a multi-million dollar campaign which will run on broadcast, cable, digital and specifically on Black radio stations across Michigan, according to her campaign.

“For me, service is not about partisanship,” Slotkin, a Democrat running for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat, says in the ad. “It’s about doing what’s right to protect our country. … I refuse to let politics split us apart.”

Slotkin is one of three Democrats running for the open seat. Others include Detroit actor and author Hill Harper and Dearborn business owner Nassar Beydoun.

Beydoun’s status on the ballot could be in jeopardy after a Board of Elections review determined many of his signatures are likely invalid.

Republicans in the running include former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, physician Sherry O’Donnell, businessman Sandy Pensler and former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers. 

Jordyn Hermani

Friday, May 24

Rogers has signatures

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rogers has enough valid signatures to make Michigan’s Aug. 6 primary ballot, but Democratic candidate Nasser Beydoun does not, the Michigan Bureau of Elections said Friday. 

The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers, which is set to meet next week to certify candidate nominating petitions, will have the final word.

Beydoun is one of 17 candidates the Bureau is recommending canvassers keep off the ballot because of invalid signatures, including seven candidates for U.S. House. If canvassers follow the recommendations, it would be the second major election cycle in a row where multiple Michigan candidates were disqualified. 

Bureau staff said Beydoun shouldn’t make the cut because his nominating petitions listed a P.O. Box rather than a required street address, making all signatures they reviewed invalid. Fellow Democratic Senate candidate Hill Harper had challenged Beydoun’s petitions on similar grounds. 

For Rogers, the frontrunner for the GOP Senate nomination, the Bureau effectively dismissed a late challenge filed by the Michigan Democratic Party and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who had claimed evidence of “potential fraud” on the former congressman’s petitions. 

Rogers appears to have more than enough signatures to make the ballot, the Bureau said in a report

Below, you’ll find a full list of candidates the Michigan Bureau of Elections is recommending canvassers disqualify. You can read the bureau reports here.  

  • U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Nasser Beydoun
  • 1st District U.S. House Republican candidate Josh Saul
  • 1st District U.S. House Republican candidate JD Wilson
  • 8th District U.S. House Republican candidate Nikki Snyder
  • 10th District U.S. House candidate Anil Kumar
  • 10th District U.S. House Democratic candidate Rhonda Powell
  • 12th District U.S. House Democratic candidate Ryan Foster
  • 12th District U.S. House Republican candidate Steven Elliott
  • 12th District U.S. House Republican candidate Hassan Nehme
  • 2nd District Court of Appeals candidate Lisa Neilson 
  • 35th District Judge candidate Maria Ruggirello 
  • 36th District Judge candidate Vanessa Moss
  • 36th District Judge candidate Herman Griffin
  • 44th District Judge candidate Belem Morales
  • 3rd Circuit Judge candidate Charles Longstreet II
  • 6th Circuit Judge candidate Nadine Renee Hatten 
  • 54th Circuit Judge candidate Hugh A. Woodrow

Friday, May 24

Dems claim ‘potential fraud’ in Mike Rogers signatures

Democrats are renewing their call for the state Board of Canvassers to review nominating petition signatures from U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rogers and potentially disqualify the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. 

The Michigan Democratic Party and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee missed the April 30 deadline to formally challenge signatures but last week first urged the state to investigate petitions from four GOP candidates. 

In a new letter released Friday, Democrats alleged “potential fraud” associated with petition sheets from 18 circulators who collected a combined 12,293 of Rogers’ 30,000 signatures. They also provided declarations from six voters whose names appear on Rogers’ petitions but say they never signed. 

The Rogers campaign dismissed the latest Democratic letter as baseless.

“It’s as illegitimate as the last one,” spokesperson Chris Gustafson said in a text message to Bridge. “Democrats didn’t file a legal challenge in time and are lashing out because Mike Rogers will be on the ballot and they know they can’t beat him.”

But Democrats contend they’ve identified various “errors and markers” on Rogers’ petitions that are similar to fraudulent signatures that led canvassers to kick multiple GOP gubernatorial candidates off the ballot in 2022. 

Among other things, the new letter questions the legitimacy of signatures from areas of the state geographically far apart, and voters listed on nominating petitions who are not registered to vote in Michigan.

“If the Board finds that any circulator submitted a fraudulent petition sheet, it should invalidate all of that circulator’s sheets—for any candidate, in addition to any signatures across the petition that are found to be invalid for other reasons,” Chris Trebilcock, an attorney representing Democrats, wrote in the letter.

Wednesday, May 22

Senate debate canceled as Rogers, Slotkin bow out

A scheduled bipartisan U.S. Senate debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference has been canceled after top-polling candidates declined to participate, organizers announced Wednesday. 

The top three polling candidates in each party were invited earlier this month to partake in a bipartisan debate May 30 on Mackinac Island as part of the annual conference that attracts politicians and the state’s top business leaders.

But the Detroit Regional Chamber said Wednesday that Republican Mike Rogers and Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin did not accept the invitation, an outcome chamber officials characterized as an unexpected and “deeply concerning” development.  

“The leading candidates’ refusal to engage in this vital forum… undermines our democratic process and hampers our state’s progress,” chamber officials wrote in a statement. “This is a clear reflection of today’s political dynamics, which increasingly discourage candidates from directly addressing voters’ concerns.”

The Slotkin campaign disputed the chamber’s characterization, however, saying she had initially agreed to a debate with all six candidates but changed course after learning at “the last minute” that Rogers and fellow Republican Justin Amash would not participate. 

“We have been clear that if an equally partisan debate had been arranged, we would have been happy to participate,” said Austin Cook, a Slotkin campaign spokesperson. 

Of the six candidates invited, only three — Republican Sandy Pensler and Democrats Hill Harper and Nasser Beydoun — agreed to participate, according to the chamber.

Wayne County has disqualified Adam Hollier from the ballot in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary in August, concluding he didn’t submit enough valid signatures to oppose incumbent Rep. Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit.

The decision from County Clerk Cathy Garrett comes days after her staff estimated that just 863 of the 1,553 signatures Hollier submitted were valid. He needed 1,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

Thanedar challenged Hollier’s signatures after several appeared to be identical or erroneous. In a Monday statement, Hollier said he was “extremely disappointed.”

“While I put my trust in someone who let us down in the collection of signatures, ultimately the leadership of the campaign falls on me and I must hold myself to a higher standard,” Hollier said in a statement. “It is also clear that our state’s system of ballot access and petition collection is sorely in need of reform.”

Hollier is a Detroiter and former state senator who was widely viewed as Thanedar’s chief opponent in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. The other candidates in the Democratic primary are Detroit City Council member Mary Waters and attorney Shakira Hawkins. 

The White House corrected several misstatements by President Joe Biden this week when it posted an official transcript of his Sunday campaign speech at an NAACP dinner in Detroit

The Affordable Care Act has saved families about $800 a year in premiums, not the $8,000 Biden cited in his speech, according to the transcript, which includes strikethroughs to preserve but correct faulty comments. 

Biden also claimed then-President Barack Obama sent him to Detroit to help the city during the “pandemic.” He actually meant the “recession,” which the Obama administration was battling in 2009 when Biden was vice president.

Among the other mistakes: Biden misquoted GOP rival Donald Trump as saying there would be “bloodshed” if he loses the November election rematch. Trump actually used the word “bloodbath” and has said his claim was about the potential impact for the auto industry. 

Friday, May 17

Speaker Johnson raising funds in Michigan’s 7th Congressional district

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson is expected to be in Michigan this weekend, appearing at a private fundraiser in support of Tom Barrett, a Republican running in Michigan’s swing 7th Congressional district.

The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at the home of west Michigan restaurateur Johnny Brann Jr., according to an invitation distributed by the 7th District Congressional Republican Committee. Tickets start at $500 per person.

Barrett, the only Republican in the race, will take on Democrat Curtis Hertel, a former colleague in the Michigan Senate, in November for a seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly. 

Johnson’s visit comes the day prior to a visit from President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to receive an award at the annual NAACP dinner in Detroit on May 19, and further highlights the national attention on Michigan and its swing state status ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

— Jordyn Hermani

Friday, May 17

Signature fiasco threatens Thanedar challenger

Former state Senator Adam Hollier does not have enough valid signatures to challenge U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar in the 13th congressional district Democratic primary, according to a new staff report from the Wayne County Clerk’s office. 

The report – which is not a final ruling – could be a major blow to Hollier, who had secured some high-profile endorsements in his bid to challenge the Democratic incumbent. Staff estimated that just 863 of the 1,553 signatures Hollier submitted were valid. He needed 1,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

Hollier’s campaign told The Detroit Free Press on Thursday that they are in “the process of carefully reviewing our next steps” as Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett prepares to make a final determination in coming days. 

Thanedar, D-Detroit, had challenged Hollier’s signatures and told Bridge he thinks the Wayne County staff “pretty much agreed with our findings.” He said he hopes “local voters continue their trust in me” and elect him to a second term.

The challenge harkens back to the signature fraud scandal that rocked the 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary, when five of 10 candidates were denied a spot on the ballot because paid circulators had falsified signatures. 

— Simon Schuster

Thursday, May 16

Kristina Karamo loses fight for Michigan GOP (again)

The court case that forced a pivotal change in Michigan Republican Party leadership effectively ended this week, but an attorney representing ousted chair Kristina Karamo said they are considering an appeal.

Circuit Court Judge Joseph Rossi on Wednesday granted summary disposition in a lawsuit that had already forced Karamo out of her state party post due to a contested vote to remove her. In a decision from the bench, Rossi also canceled a scheduled June trial.

“We’re very appreciative of the hard work and diligence that the court gave this case,” said attorney Jonathan Lauderbach, who represents a faction of Karamo dissidents who took over the party. “The court was very thorough in its analysis, and arrived at a well reasoned conclusion.”

Long-simmering dissent toward Karamo culminated in a Jan. 6 meeting, where about a third of GOP state committee members used a quirk of party bylaws to remove Karamo from the role. Two weeks later the same faction met again and elected the current chair, former congressman Pete Hoekstra, to lead the party.

What followed was weeks of turmoil as the party split under two factions that both proclaimed themselves the rightful party leaders.

The lawsuit filed by Hoekstra’s faction brought a degree of resolution in late February, when Rossi issued an injunction barring Karamo from claiming to lead the party, acting as chair or using its resources. 

Karamo’s attorney, the party’s one-time general counsel Dan Hartman, said Thursday they are considering an appeal at the state and federal levels.

— Simon Schuster

Wednesday, May 15

Joe Biden, Donald Trump agree to debates

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump said Wednesday they are planning to debate on June 27 and Sept. 10.  Bridge Michigan is planning to fact-check any state-related claims. 

The debates — set to be hosted by CNN and ABC, respectively — will mark the first time the candidates have sparred on-stage since the 2020 campaign. It also marks a shift for Biden, who until recently was non-committal on whether he would debate Trump during the 2024 cycle.

Biden signaled his willingness to debate early Wednesday, telling Trump in a video to “pick the dates, Donald.” Less than an hour later, Trump agreed, posting to his own social media platform Truth Social that it was “time for a debate … just tell me when, I’ll be there.”

The presumed Democratic and Republican nominees are foregoing a debate schedule previously announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which called for four debates across September and October. 

Bridge will follow and fact-check the presidential debates, continuing efforts undertaken during the 2020 election cycle to provide context and clarity for Michigan-related claims by the leading candidates for the White House. 

— Jordyn Hermani

Tuesday, May 14

Jill Biden to visit Marquette

First Lady Jill Biden is planning several stops in Michigan over the next few days, starting Thursday in Marquette.

Details are scant about her Marquette appearance, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that she and Douglas Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, will speak to tribal members at noon Friday in Sault Ste. Marie before touring the Soo Locks at 1 p.m.

Jill Biden plans to visit Midland on Friday and appear in Detroit on Saturday, according to MLive.com. On Sunday, Joe Biden plans to deliver a speech at the Detroit Branch NAACP’s Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner.

Jill Biden was in Michigan just a few weeks ago, visiting Grand Rapids in late April.

Marquette last had a presidential visit in 2011. President George W. Bush visited Marquette for a reelection campaign rally in 2004. — Simon Schuster

Tuesday, May 14

Lisa McClain hospitalized

U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy Monday night, her office wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This unexpected medical emergency will result in her absence from Congress for the next few days,” the post said. “She is currently recovering and expects to be back soon.”

Additional information wasn’t immediately provided. — Simon Schuster

Tuesday, May 14

Big buy planned for Senate race

A conservative group plans to spent $9.4 million on ads for the open Senate race in Michigan, which is already expected to be one of the nation’s most competitive, according to published reports.

The group, One Nation, plans to spend a total of $88 million on a “Stop the Insanity” campaign of radio, mail, TV and digital ads in contested Senate races, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Montana, POLITICO first reported on Monday.

The Michigan ads are expected to start after the August primary and will focus on inflation and immigration. One Nation is closely aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

It’s the latest big investment in an open state that observers predict will help decide the U.S. Senate majority come fall. 

In March, Senate Majority PAC, a group affiliated with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, announced plans to reserve $14 million in Michigan ad buys as part of a multi-state effort to defend the party’s majority. 

Among individual candidates, Democratic front-runner Elissa Slotkin has thus far dominated fundraising in the race to succeed outgoing U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. 

Slotkin, who currently represents mid-Michigan’s 7th Congressional District in Congress, raised $4.4 million in the first quarter of 2024 and reported $8.6 million in the bank. On the Republican side, business executive Sandy Pensler reported $2.1 million in cash on hand — most of which was self-funded — and former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers raised just over $1 million over the same period. 

— Lauren Gibbons

Monday, May 13

GOP pushes absentee voting

The Michigan GOP is urging its members to add their names to the state’s permanent absentee voter list, arguing Republicans “cannot afford to underestimate the strategic importance” of voting by mail in 2024.

The Monday appeal marked a notable tone shift for state Republicans, some of whom joined President Donald Trump in casting doubt on the integrity of Michigan’s absentee security measures during the 2020 presidential election. 

Michigan Democrats “possess a formidable advantage” when it comes to voters on the state’s permanent absentee ballot list, outnumbering Republican sign-ups by a two-to-one ratio, the state GOP said in an email

“This stark reality handicaps our ability to mobilize low propensity voters effectively, particularly through permanent (absentee) voting in Michigan.”

Absentee voting played a pivotal role in recent Michigan elections since voters in 2018 approved a measure to expand its use. 

Roughly 1.1 million people voted absentee in the 2022 gubernatorial election, and roughly 1.8 million people voted absentee during the 2020 presidential election. Democrats performed well both years, with Trump and Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon losing their respective election bids. 

— Jordyn Hermani

Friday, May 10

Justin Amash says ‘we don’t impeach presidents enough’

Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Justin Amash spoke on X Spaces, formerly Twitter Spaces, Thursday night, criticizing fellow Republican hopeful Mike Rogers and defending his vote for then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Rogers, a former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is endorsed by Trump. But Amash criticized his past support of surveillance programs that some civil liberties advocates have called an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

“Mike Rogers is one of those people who would stand there right alongside (South Carolina Sen.) Lindsey Graham, telling Donald Trump to go to war, (telling) Trump to sign more surveillance into law, telling Donald Trump to spend more money,” Amash said in the call.

Amash, a congressman who represented the Grand Rapids area from 2011 until 2021, declined to run for reelection in 2020 after leaving the Republican Party and voting to impeach Trump over a phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Defending the impeachment vote, he argued it was a principled stand against executive authority he would have taken under Obama or Biden, too.

“I believe that all of the past three presidents have committed impeachable offenses, and in fact, what I think is a big problem in our system right now is that we don’t impeach presidents enough,” Amash said. “I’ve always been very strongly against executive abuse. And that shouldn’t be surprising. I’m a libertarian.”

He said he viewed Trump’s request to Zelenskyy that he investigate now-President Joe Biden’s family “as some kind of attempt at getting a personal benefit.”

Amash is one of four candidates running in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. He’s facing Rogers, physician Sherry O’Donnell and businessman Sandy Pensler.

In a recent poll from The Hill/Emerson, Amash had just 7% support from likely voters, compared to Rogers’ 32% and Pensler’s 2%. O’Donnell did not register and 54% were undecided with a 4.1% margin of error.

If elected, Amash said he would readily break with Trump on issues where he disagrees.

“I don’t know if I’ve changed my opinion on Trump,” he said. “It’s sort of settled into my mind who he is. I think that there are good aspects and there are bad aspects. My view as a senator (is) I will support what he’s doing when he’s doing the right thing.” — Simon Schuster

Wednesday May 8

First U.S. Senate debate set for Mackinac Policy Conference

Michigan’s first 2024 U.S. Senate debate will take place May 30 at the Mackinac Policy Conference, the Detroit Regional Chamber announced Wednesday. 

The debate, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 30, will be bipartisan, and invites have been extended to the top three polling candidates from each party, Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said during a Wednesday morning press conference.

The debate moderators are Rick Albin of WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids and Devin Scillian of WDIV-TV in Detroit.

Baruah said the debate format is unique in that candidates from both parties will be onstage at the same time, and “really pushes candidates to a broad audience as opposed to speaking to their base voters.” 

Mike Rogers
Republican Mike Rogers among U.S. Senate candidates invited to bipartisan debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference. (Bridge file photo)

All three Democratic candidates — U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, actor Hill Harper and business executive Nasser Beydoun — are eligible to participate. 

Invited Republican candidates include former U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers and Justin Amash and business executive Sandy Pensler. A fourth Republican candidate, Sherry O’Donnell, is not eligible to participate under debate rules.

— Lauren Gibbons

Wednesday May 8

Ottawa Impact member recalled in defeat for ultraconservative faction

Ottawa Impact received its first electoral defeat Tuesday after a member of the ultraconservative faction of county commissioners was defeated in a recall election.

Democrat Chris Kleinjans bested incumbent Republican Lucy Ebel, earning 60% of the vote in a special election that saw 20% turnout in what has been a reliably conservative county, according to unofficial election results.

“The voters of District 2 made it clear that they reject the chaos, fiscal irresponsibility, and disrespect for county employees that exemplify Lucy Ebel and Ottawa Impact’s style of government, and I will work every day to turn that around,” Kleinjans said in a statement.

He called the election “a referendum on Ottawa Impact.”

Ottawa Impact candidates took control of the county commission in 2023, when eight of nine Ottawa Impact-backed candidates were elected to the 11-member commission, running on a platform that assailed COVID-19 restrictions and leaned into the culture wars.

The group’s tenure has been marked by acrimony and turmoil, as a monthslong effort to fire the county public health director because of her pandemic  restrictions failed and the commission faces a lawsuit brought by the county administrator they hired in their first meeting and fired in March, John Gibbs.

Ottawa Impact’s supermajority lasted only three months after Jacob Bonnema broke away from the slate, dissatisfied with what he called a lack of transparency. He was later censured and removed from a committee leadership position.

Another Ottawa Impact member, Rebekah Curran, is running for U.S. Senate and didn’t file for reelection. She did not submit required signatures to qualify for the Senate GOP primary, however, after raising less than $3,000 for her senate bid, according to the latest campaign finance disclosures.

Ebel, who still is set to appear in the August 6 primary election, would have to win back her seat from Kleinjans for the faction to retain an outright majority on the commission. All Ottawa Impact members face Republican primary challengers.

— Simon Schuster

Tuesday, May 7

Nessel slams Trump over abortion comments

With the presidential election approaching, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and other Democrats continue to warn reproductive rights may be jeopardized under presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump. 

Trump has “no interest in protecting women” or abortion access, Nessel claimed Tuesday in Lansing at a coffee shop event organized by President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. 

With Trump, “really, anything goes when it comes to persecuting women for having the audacity … to reproduce,” Nessel added.

Her critique came after Trump appeared to backpedal on comments he made regarding states possibly monitoring women’s pregnancies to track whether they had an abortion. 

“They might do that,” Trump initially told Time Magazine, before attempting to walk back that suggestion this weekend on his Truth Social website. 

“After 50 years, Abortion is now up to the States,” Trump wrote Sunday.

Nessel was joined Tuesday by two women denied abortions in Texas and Louisiana, which barred the procedure after Trump nominees on the U.S. Supreme Court helped overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022. 

“What I went through was nothing short of barbaric … this is directly the result of Donald Trump,” said Amanda Zurawski of Texas, who said she nearly died when she was forced to deliver a stillborn girl after going into septic shock. 

Under Texas’ narrow abortion law, doctors cannot utilize abortion until a woman’s life is considered in danger. Even after the birth, Zurawski said she went into sepsis again and spent three days in intensive care. 

Jordyn Hermani

Monday, May 6

Whitmer, Thanedar take heat over Israel-Hamas war

Defaced Shri Thander sign on the side of a community center in Detroit
A courtesy photo of a defaced sign of U.S. Representative Shri Thanedar.

Two high-profile Michigan Democrats faced public criticism this weekend as pro-Palestinian demonstrators continue to call for an immediate end to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

Video widely shared on social media appeared to show protesters confronting Whitmer at the Bobcat Bonnie’s restaurant in Ypsilanti, where they waved Palestinian flags, chanted and played drums.

Whitmer’s office declined to comment on the incident, and the restaurant did not respond to requests for more information. 

The governor does not control foreign policy, but she is a co-chair of Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. Shortly after the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks in Israel, Whitmer spoke at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield and said, “We stand with Israel. And Israel has a right to defend itself.” Later that month, she canceled a visit to a mosque in Dearborn.

Whitmer has since declined to weigh in on calls for a permanent ceasefire, or say whether she’d characterize the conflict as a genocide, suggesting it is a term “used to inflame and divide us.” 

Separately, a Detroit community center sponsored by and named after Thanedar, was tagged with pro-Palestinian graffiti over the weekend, the first-term congressman said on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

The phrases “ceasefire” and “free Palestine” were scrawled on a wall and horns were drawn on a photo of Thanedar, who previously has called for an end to the conflict. 

“I support efforts for a ceasefire in Gaza, which must begin with Hamas releasing all hostages and Hamas’s military infrastructure being dismantled,” Thanedar said in a February statement. 

“Alongside this, we must ensure humanitarian aid reaches the Palestinian people directly, differentiating their plight from the actions of Hamas.”

More than 34,700 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in the war, which began after Hamas militants entered Israel and killed close to 1,200 people in October. Israeli leaders have vowed to continue the fight until Hamas is destroyed and all hostages taken in the October raids released.

Outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Detroit Monday, protestors calling for a ceasefire were reportedly blocked from getting close to the event by Detroit police officers.

Simon Schuster

Friday, May 3

Whitmer calls ‘baloney’ on Trump abortion stance

Voters “cannot trust anything that Donald Trump says when it comes to abortion,” Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer claimed during a Flint roundtable this week, panning recent comments Trump made on the subject as “baloney.”

Whitmer’s critique came the same day Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, rallied at MBS International Airport in Michigan’s highly competitive Saginaw County. As part of that stop, Trump thanked the U.S. Supreme Court “for the wisdom and the courage” to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 court decision which previously established precedent for abortion access. 

Trump has long danced around the topic of enacting a federal abortion ban, recently telling Time Magazine that there “will never be that chance” as it’s unlikely the move has enough votes to clear the U.S. Senate. Last month, he said states should decide the issue.

Trump allies, however, are reportedly developing plans to try to restrict abortion nationwide, calling for things like enforcing a 19th century law that could make mailing abortion pills illegal.“No one should take any comfort” in Trump saying he won’t have the chance to sign a national abortion ban “because he doesn’t have 60 votes in the Senate,” Whitmer told reporters from WNEM-TV and other outlets Wednesday. “Baloney.”

In his recent Time interview, Trump also said it was “totally irrelevant” where he stood on possibly prosecuting women for having abortions in states with restrictive bans.

“I think they might do that,” Trump said when asked about actions states with bans could take, such as monitoring a woman’s pregnancy. But he again reiterated that it didn’t matter what he thought of the idea, “because the states are going to make those decisions.” — Jordyn Hermani

Friday, May 3

Signature dispute imperils Thanedar challenger

Democratic U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar is alleging that more than half the nominating signatures of his most prominent primary opponent, former state Sen. Adam Hollier, are invalid.

Hollier needs 1,000 voter signatures from within the Detroit-based 13th congressional district to qualify for the ballot. But a consultant hired by Thanedar contends just 761 of the 1,555 signatures Hollier submitted are valid. 

In a complaint to election officials, Thanedar’s campaign argued most signatures on the petitions collected by paid circulators are either duplicated, from ineligible signers, have inaccurate voter information or hadn’t been filled out correctly by the petition circulator. Some pages of signatures look strikingly similar.

The challenge harkens back to the signature fraud scandal that rocked the 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary, when five of 10 candidates were denied a spot on the ballot because paid circulators had falsified signatures. 

“As responsible stewards of the democratic process, we cannot allow such discrepancies to go unaddressed and have asked Wayne County Clerk’s office to investigate,” Thanedar campaign wrote in a press release. 

Hollier told the Detroit Free Press that voters “should be deeply frustrated that their Congressmember is trying to disenfranchise their ability to vote.”

But a columnist at the Free Press found the name of her colleague, reporter Tresa Baldas, among the allegedly falsified signatures — and Baldas insisted she has never signed a petition.

Thanedar was first elected to Congress in 2022, coming first in a nine-candidate primary field with 28.3% of the vote, with Hollier less than 4,000 votes behind him in the heavily Democratic district. Four primary candidates including Hollier have announced campaigns to challenge him this year. — Simon Schuster

Wednesday, May 1: 

Trump bashes criminal charges in rally

FREELAND — Fighting criminal charges that threaten his comeback campaign, former President Donald Trump on Wednesday used a Michigan speech to suggest he is facing harsher treatment than notorious mobster Al Capone.

“Has anyone ever heard about him?,” Trump said of Capone, the Chicago-based crime boss who purportedly had several hideouts throughout Michigan.

“He would kill people if he looked at them and didn’t like them … He got indicted less than I did.” 

Capone, however, was actually indicted on more than 5,000 violations under the prohibition-era Volstead Act, according to federal records. 

trump in michigan
Chris Cooper of Freeland and Pat Fairbrother of Cadillac load a life-sized cutout of former President Donald Trump into their vehicle in preparation for Wednesday’s rally at MBS International Airport in Freeland. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Trump’s campaign rally in Saginaw County came amid a New York “hush money” trial focused on allegations he used campaign funds to keep an adult film star from going public with adultery allegations ahead of the 2016 election. 

Related: Trump warns of tax hikes, EV doom in Michigan rally. Here are the facts

Judge Juan M. Merchan on Tuesday declared Trump in contempt of court for making critical statements of jurors and witnesses in the case. Another hearing is expected Thursday. 

Trump is also battling federal charges for his alleged role in a plot to overturn 2020 election results in swing states like Michigan, along with related criminal charges in Georgia. 

Trump vehemently denied wrongdoing during his Michigan speech and criticized what he called “fake cases.”

— Lauren Gibbons

FREELAND — Former President Donald Trump has drawn thousands of enthusiastic fans to Saginaw County for his latest Michigan rally. His allies say it’s a sign the former president’s momentum is building as he fights to retake the White House in November. 

Supporters descended onto the Avflight hangar at MBS International Airport in Freeland on Wednesday, enjoying warm, sunny weather and the festival-like atmosphere typical of the former president’s rallies: MAGA merchandise booths, food trucks hawking hot dogs and prominent Republicans making the case for Trump. 

Supporters of former President Donald Trump prepare for his rally in Freeland, Michigan. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)
Supporters of former President Donald Trump prepare for his rally in Freeland, Michigan. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

People are recognizing things were better under Donald Trump,” Michigan Republican Party Chair Pete Hoekstra told Bridge Michigan ahead of the former president’s speech. “There’s no doubt that one of the things that’s really fueling momentum is the chaos that we’re seeing with Joe Biden.”

Warm-up speeches at the Trump rally featured several current and former Michigan Republican candidates, including U.S. Senate hopeful Mike Rogers, state lawmakers and Tudor Dixon, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the 2022 election. 

Citing immigration issues, high inflation and global unrest, they stressed Michigan’s importance in the coming election, arguing flipping the swing state would be key to ending Biden’s tenure. 

“We are going to work together to do something that Democrats don’t believe that we can do: win the state of Michigan,” Rogers said. 

Lauren Gibbons

President Joe Biden is headed to Detroit on May 19 for the 2024 NAACP Detroit Branch Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner. The event, which typically draws about 10,000 people to Huntington Place convention center, plans to honor Biden with a lifetime achievement award.

Related: Biden returning to Michigan for NAACP dinner in Detroit

It will be Biden’s third visit to Michigan this year and comes as polling shows he is in a tough race with former President Donald Trump in the state. Some African-American leaders also warned that Biden and fellow Democrats cannot take their votes for granted this November.

Biden visited Saginaw, a majority-Black city, in March. — Simon Schuster

DETROIT — President Donald Trump is set to host a rally in mid-Michigan on Wednesday, prompting condemnation on Tuesday from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, union leaders and other Democratic officials over labor issues.

During a media event at IBEW Local 58 in Detroit, Duggan touted the Biden administration’s efforts to incorporate union workers into clean energy jobs and argued Detroit is helped by a president “who sees the world through the eyes of folks trying to make a good living every day.” 

Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for the presidency, is slated to return to Michigan Wednesday at MBS International Airport in Saginaw County, a union-heavy swing county that has voted for the winning presidential candidate in every general election since 2008.

Mike Duggan on stage at an event
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan during at IBEW Local 58 in Detroit. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)

Trump rallied at the airport during his 2020 campaign, and officials expect crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 on Wednesday. Doors open at 2 p.m. and Trump is expected to speak at 6 p.m. 

 Airport officials told WNEM-TV 5 they expect traffic jams for miles.

Biden, the presumed Democratic nominee, previously campaigned in the city of Saginaw in March at a private organizing meeting with supporters.

Both candidates are backing on strong support of blue-collar workers, with Biden touting the endorsement of several unions, while Trump last year came to Michigan during the UAW strike to appeal to autoworkers.

Pat Devlin of the Michigan Building Trades Council argued that Michigan’s blue-collar workers wouldn’t be wooed by Trump this time around. 

“Donald Trump made promises he couldn’t keep,” Devlin said Tuesday. “He made America weaker and hurt our workers.”  — Lauren Gibbons

A coalition of universities, business groups and community organizations are proposing three general election debates aimed at giving voters more unfiltered air time with candidates. 

The newly-formed Michigan Debate Task Force plans to host general election debates in west Michigan, northern Michigan and southeast Michigan in September and October, focusing on both statewide and region-specific issues. 

The goal is to shake up how debates are handled in Michigan, where candidates’ campaigns determine the logistics and “hold all the cards,” said David Dulio, political science professor and director of Oakland University’s Center for Civic Engagement.

“What we want to do is take that out of the equation and say, ‘Here are three chances that the entire state can hear from you, and we think you ought to take the voters up on that,’” said Dulio, a lead organizer of the task force. 

The group hopes to expand public debate offerings for statewide races in future cycles, including 2026’s gubernatorial election. 

— Lauren Gibbons

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