Ads tout Schuette's AG record, target Whitmer's immigration stances

Michigan gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette deliver primary election victory speeches Tuesday night, August 7, 2018.

Republican governor hopeful Bill Schuette’s first two ads of the general election campaign tout his work as attorney general and call out his Democratic opponent’s history on immigration issues, including her stance on abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ads launched Tuesday will run on broadcast television statewide in the run-up to the November election, said Schuette spokesman John Sellek.

One of the 30-second advertisements launched Tuesday calls former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer “the most liberal lawmaker in Lansing” and attacks her history on immigration issues.

The 30-second ad claims Whitmer voted 10 times “to give taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants.” A Detroit News review of the votes referenced in the ad showed Whitmer voted against a series of bills in 2006 that would add or clarify citizenship requirements for certain state university grants and scholarships.

The ad also alleges Whitmer supports the progressive push to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, calling her “an extreme risk we can’t take.”

“As your governor, I’ll enforce our immigration laws, and I’ll ban sanctuary cities in Michigan,” Schuette said in the advertisement. “I will always put your family’s safety first.” 

The allegation that Whitmer supports abolishing ICE is a "flat-out lie," Whitmer's press secretary Nicole Simmons said in an email, calling it a desperate attempt by Republicans "to hang on to power in Lansing."

“It’s no surprise that the Republican Party, that stood by in silence while the Trump administration ripped babies out of their mother’s arms, is now lying about Gretchen Whitmer’s record," Simmons said

In a video circulated by Republicans this summer, Whitmer said that ICE's actions at the border were “fundamentally cruel and unconstitutional and undemocratic work.” When pressed further on whether the agency should be abolished, Whitmer said “Yeah, I think our governor needs to stand up.” She nodded her head when asked a third time.

In an interview with reporters in late July, Whitmer said the governor “cannot single-handedly change international policy,” but can pull back National Guard troops from the southern border or sue the federal government on behalf of the children brought to Michigan.

“ICE has become the face of the most horrendous, horrific, heartbreaking action that has happened under the Trump administration,” Whitmer said. “But just abolishing a department that is the face of an administration … doesn’t fix the problem.”

A second ad launched Tuesday features an endorsement from Detroit Police Officer Nicholle Quinn-Abdullah, who said Schuette “is a fighter for Michigan women and children.” She cites Schuette’s work to fund testing for sexual assault DNA evidence kits and tougher jail sentences for sex trafficking.

“Bill Schuette has heart, he has guts, and he fights hard for Michigan families,” Quinn-Abdullah said.

Police officers like Quinn-Abdullah support Schuette because he stands up “for the protection and security of Michigan's women and children, solving cold-case sexual assaults, collecting child support, prosecuting human trafficking, and supporting those who enforce our immigration laws,” Sellek said in a statement.

While the ads Tuesday are the first released by Schuette’s campaign, the Republican Governors Association launched a television ad shortly after the August primary linking Whitmer to the “failed policies” of Democratic former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Democratic Governors Association launched an attack ad of its own days later, criticizing Schuette for handing “tax giveaways to the super rich.” The TV ad references legislation from Schuette's time in the state Senate in 1995.

Schuette allies on Tuesday also questioned Whitmer’s commitment to Israel, pointing to nine-year-old Twitter posts by running mate Garlin Gilchrist II reported over the weekend by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website.

During a 2009 debate over the Gaza War, Gilchrist said he was sick of “politicians and Evangelicals kissing Israel’s ass regardless of what they do in the name of ‘defense’” and called Hamas a legitimately elected party that rose to power because of “Israeli aggression & Western complicity/enablement.”

"Garlin Gilchrist’s statements are anti-Israel, outrageous, and more proof of Gretchen Whitmer’s vision of taking Michigan on a sharp left turn with the most extreme agenda in Michigan history, something that will be rejected this November," Schuette said in a statement. 

In statements provided to The News, Whitmer touted her “unwavering support for Israel” and Gilchrist said he supports the Jewish community. Both said they oppose the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement and suggested Schuette and his “partisan attack dogs” were trying to distract voters from his positions on other issues, including health care.

"The truth is that in the state Senate I proudly sponsored resolutions to reaffirm the unbreakable partnership between Michigan and Israel,” Whitmer said. “I believe that the BDS movement is an affront to that relationship, and I am 100 percent opposed to BDS.”

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