Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette apparently couldn’t wait for their first gubernatorial debate on Friday. The duo sparred Tuesday on Twitter, foreshadowing what could be a combative confrontation at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.

Whitmer drew first blood, questioning the authenticity of Schuette’s claim that “Michigan families deserve affordable, accessible health care that covers pre-existing conditions, lets children stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, and protects your ability to pick your own doctor!”

The former Senate minority leader from East Lansing accused the attorney general from Midland of trying to “rewrite” his record on health care, noting Schuette “crusaded” against Medicaid expansion and attacked Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for it during the GOP primary.

“My parents taught me — pay attention to  what people do, not what they say,” Whitmer wrote.

Schuette fired back, saying he agrees that “actions matter — or lack thereof.”

Whitmer served in the state Legislature for 14 years “and passed only three bills into law,” Schuette wrote. “No auto insurance reform, no roads fix. Just tax hikes and smaller paychecks. She didn't get the job done then and won't get the job done as governor.”

Whitmer responded by telling Schuette, who was first elected to Congress in 1984, that "you've been in office since I was in high school.”

“You’re the one who joined NINE different lawsuits that would have ripped health care away from people,” she wrote, referencing legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act that Schuette was a part of. “You can try to run for your record, Bill, but you can’t hide from it.”

Health care has emerged as a top issue in the gubernatorial race, echoing a national debate over the controversial federal law that President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans tried but failed to repeal.

Schuette fought the law but is aggressively combating claims he does not support the coverage guarantee it offers for patients with pre-existing conditions, which he has consistently said he’d want to be part of any replacement law.

Granholm enters fray

Schuette has made tax cuts a central plank of his campaign and repeatedly blasts the “Whitmer-Granholm” tax hike, referencing what was supposed to be a temporary tax hike signed into law by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm that Whitmer voted for as a first-term state senator in 2007.

Granholm fought the criticism in a weekend tweet laying out what she called the “facts” of the matter. The bill she signed “during the fiscal crisis” raised the personal income tax rate to 4.35 percent but required it drop back to 3.9 percent by 2015.

“In 2011, after my terms, (the) GOP stopped that rollback,” she wrote, referencing Gov. Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul that froze the income tax rate at 4.25 percent. “But for that action, Michiganders would be paying 3.9 percent today.”

Schuette responded with his own “facts.”

Granholm “presided over the Lost Decade and 15 percent unemployment,” Schuette wrote. “She and Gretchen Whitmer created the worst business tax in Michigan history. And together they hiked the income tax. The only time they disagreed was when Whitmer complained it wasn't a big enough tax hike!”

James-El-Sayed Twitter war

Republican U.S. Senate contender John James may have a new political adversary besides Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow: Democratic gubernatorial second-place finisher Abdul El-Sayed.

El-Sayed, who lost the primary to former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, took to Twitter Tuesday to bash James and the fact that Donald Trump Jr. is coming to “stomp” for the Farmington Hills businessman and military veteran Wednesday in Pontiac. The two traded Twitter barbs.

“Nothing describes @MIGOP better than a man who has done nothing of value but mooch off his daddy – who mooched off *his* daddy. No action, just words,” El-Sayed tweeted. Then the former Detroit health director added Kid Rock, who is also appearing at the James event. “Oh, & @KidRock, a confederate flag wrapped has been. G’luck John!”

James, a former Apache helicopter pilot during war time, fired back. “I’m a West Point grad & Iraq vet w/2 masters. My dad: Vietnam vet & entrepreneur. His dad: mason. His dad: sharecropper. His dad: slave. Mooching? My family never asked for free stuff, just a fair shot. We can’t allow allow the American Dream to be crushed by you, @Stabnow & socialism.”

El-Sayed later indicated he was referring to Trump Jr. when he used the "mooched" line, but James was still fundraising off the tweet Tuesday afternoon, suggesting "the radical leftist mob will pull no punches" in the race. 

James is trailing in the polls to Stabenow.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Leonard N. Fleming 

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