By Ruth Bailey
Five Republican candidates shared the stage last night at the gubernatorial debate held at the Royalty House in Warren, Michigan. An exciting evening it was!
This was the second debate I’d ever attended, and the house was full. How thrilling it was to meet each candidate in person and converse with them face-to-face, even if for a few minutes alone. The room was full of electricity. I could feel it with every fiber of my being. Every Michigan-based conservative candidate, short of the Governor, was in attendance.
The evening began with Charlie Langton, our moderator, introducing each candidate. Charlie is an attorney and broadcaster for Fox 2 Detroit and WJR Radio. A man of many hats, he also anchors and co-hosts. You may be familiar with at least one of his popular shows, “Let It Rip.” Charlie’s life has led him down many a path, including drama. All talents combined, his was the perfect personality for the role of Debate moderator.
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The five gubernatorial candidates sat at their designated table, the focal point of the room. No candidate appeared to be as nervous as they had in the first debate, and their confidence shown throughout the evening. Apparent was the fact that each had practiced and perhaps received a bit of coaching. The change was especially noticeable in candidates Garrett Soldano and Tudor Dixon. Garrett was exceptionally polished in his delivery, as he tends to be, and Tudor came across as more confident than she had in the first debate.
Charlie’s introduction of each of the candidates was met with whoops, hollers and much applause. To be expected, the loudest of the crowd were gathered near the beverage bar. Full of excitement were the Soldano crew – a tight group of volunteers whose core was established well over two years ago. Their thunderous reactions always seem to take the crowd by surprise, eliciting the humblest of smiles from their favorite candidate (Garret Soldano).
Each candidate was provided lengthy questions by a panel of individuals selected specifically for the evening. The questions were often complex, varying by topic, such as the overturn of Roe vs Wade, to election fraud, to medical freedom. The candidates were incredibly thorough in their responses and didn’t hold back in any way. Attendees received a little more of the action they came for, as candidates challenged one another in a sometimes rather heated exchange.
Those of us in attendance were instructed to hold our applause between questions. Of course, this didn’t stop the fun-loving crowd at the bar, who continued to “whoop it up” between candidate responses. This continued throughout the evening.
Candidates were then offered the opportunity to challenge each another and challenge they did. Exchanges between candidates became especially heated when Ralph Rebandt challenged candidate Ryan Kelley on the topic of election fraud. A volley of accusations ensued ending only with a diversion from the moderator. Rebandt also made it a point to stress the importance of Judeo-Christian values within the school system.
Candidate Garrett Soldano further challenged his contenders stating, “Where were you and what did you do in 2020?” He stressed that he wasn’t ‘just doing lip service’ as the rest were. He’d been on the steps of the Capitol, pounding the pavement – all over Michigan.
Ryan Kelley brought up, twice or more, events surrounding the Mackinaw Policy Conference. His take on the matter was that the establishment, which is pro-vaccine and vaccine passport, discriminated against unvaccinated candidates, in that they (the establishment) had decided to hold the Mackinaw Island debate portion under a tent. The rest of the event was inside, and vaccines were required of all attendees. The candidates who attended the event disagreed with Ryan on the matter, stating their stance on the vaccine was what caused the establishment to bend their own rules in the first place.
Candidate Tudor Dixon was in rare form for most of the evening. She was confident, often taking on the “Mama Bear” role in her responses. She spoke out against red flag laws, as well as drag queens within the school system. She strongly believes that parents should have a say in the goings on of their child’s classroom. She never wavered in her commitment to children.
Kevin Rinke spoke of bettering Michigan, claiming that there was a ‘time to learn, earn and serve. He followed that statement with, “My time to serve is now. I’m not owned by anyone. I only win when you win.” He was one, amongst two other candidates -Tudor Dixon and Ryan Kelley – who expressed that, only in cases of rape and incest, did they agree to support abortion.
The super-charged evening ended all too quickly, two hours slipping by as though disguised as minutes. Following a slew of handshakes and photo opportunities, I made my way to an exit. The whole drive home was spent thinking about the debate. If someone had asked me 10 years ago, “What do you see yourself doing in the years to come?” I would never have said I’d be heading to a gubernatorial debate. The experience was life changing, to say the least. One I won’t soon forget.