Rinke downplays Trump's endorsement of Dixon in governor's race; she appears at gun range

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Troy — Hours after his biggest opponent won Donald Trump’s endorsement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Rinke emerged Saturday morning at his campaign event undeterred, saying the former president's support doesn’t guarantee a win.

Rinke, standing outside his campaign headquarters in Oakland County where about 75 supporters rallied for him, said most Michigan voters have already made up their minds about their candidate and he doubts Trump's endorsement will swing anyone at this point.

“The president has lost people across the country where he has endorsed. His candidates — he is batting 50%. It’s not a for sure thing,” Rinke said.

Kevin Rinke, Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters Saturday during his "Get Out The Vote Super Saturday" rally at his campaign headquarters in Troy.

Trump issued a statement Friday night throwing his political weight behind Dixon's campaign after months of efforts by the Republican candidates running for Michigan's highest office to get his coveted endorsement. The former president's support of Dixon now puts him on the same side in the GOP primary as the family of Betsy DeVos, who served as Trump's education secretary.

The Bloomfield Hills businessman hosted a "Get Out The Vote Super Saturday" event at his campaign headquarters in Troy on Saturday morning, playing music and handing out donuts and coffee to supporters.

“We are three days out and we are on a path to victory,” Rinke said. “This political game is interesting to me. It’s different, it’s got twists and turns. ... Candidates win elections, not endorsements.”

Across town Dixon made an appearance at a Taylor gun range where a previously scheduled event offering free firearms training and shooting for women attracted hundreds of participants. She fired a semi-automatic 9 mm gun on the range into a pink body target, shooting the center of the target out.

Republican governor candidate Tudor Dixon, holds a media scrum with reporters at Recoil Firearms on July 30, 2022, in Taylor, Mich.
Republican governor candidate Tudor Dixon, receives instructions from John Edeen, MD, gun instructor, before shooting a 9 mm handgun at Recoil Firearms on July 30, 2022, in Taylor, Mich.

"I am incredibly grateful to have the president's endorsement, but it doesn't stop what I am doing," Dixon said. "I am going to keep fighting."

Asked if she committed to endorsing Trump for 2024 after receiving his endorsement, Dixon said "his endorsement was about my plan and he made that clear."

Attorney General candidate Matt DePerno, a top Trump ally who was expected to campaign with Rinke Saturday morning in Oakland County, was at Dixon's side during the event.

Asked if he was now supporting Dixon, DePerno said he has done nearly 300 events across the state with all the gubernatorial candidates.

"They are all great candidates and we are waiting for Tuesday to see what happens in the primary," DePerno said.

Republican governor candidate Tudor Dixon, (l), Attorney General candidate Matt DePerno, (r), chats with Rebecca Paul,(red rose top), 70, of Dearborn and her husband David Paul, 68, at Recoil Firearms on July 30, 2022, in Taylor, Mich.

Rebecca Paul, who described herself as a conservative Republican, met Dixon for the first time at the event. After speaking to her briefly, Paul said Dixon's pro-life stance was important to her. "I will be voting in person on Tuesday. Always in person," she said.

Dixon has racked up multiple high-profile endorsements in the race, including the DeVos family, the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Police Officers Association of Michigan and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

Rinke, who has pledged to eliminate Michigan's 4.25% personal income tax and focus on election integrity, said Saturday he remains the best candidate because he offers truth and intregrity.

"It starts with not owing anybody anything other than doing the right thing for the people of Michigan," Rinke said. 

The one-time auto dealership owner has not said how he would make up for a loss of $12 billion in tax revenue through the elimination of the income tax. Dixon favors gradually eliminating the income tax over an unspecified number of years.

Rinke's supporters also were not flummoxed Saturday by news of Trump's endorsement, saying they were voting for Rinke because of his character, focus on policy issues and vision for Michigan.

"I think he would be the best choice in reviving Michigan's economy, bringing us back to more common sense government. Ultimately shrinking the size of (state) government," said Vince Synowicz, 26, of Royal Oak. "I think just making Michigan a better, safer, more prosperous place to live."

Rinke predicted Tuesday would be an interesting day in Michigan politics with a lot of surprises.

"You folks are going to be wearing an awfully big smile," Rinke said.

Jackie Odom, of Bloomfield Hills, (left, white cap), applauds Republican governor hopeful Kevin Rinke while he gives a speech Saturday morning at his campaign headquarters in Troy.

Given than about 40% of voters have already cast absentee ballots, Rinke supporter Jackie Odom of Bloomfield Hills said Trump's late endorsement won't carry any impact. 

Odom voiced support for Rinke based on Dixon's stance on abortion. Dixon opposes abortion in all instances except to save the life of the mother.

Rinke is the only Republican gubernatorial candidate on the ballot who has said he would allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, according to answers the candidates have given at several debates.

His stance was aligned with 68% of likely Republican primary voters in a July 13-15 statewide poll commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV (Channel 4).

Dixon's past comments about abortion and a 14-year-old girl being forced to carry a baby to term were bad, Odom said.

"I can't support that kind of rigidity," Odom said. "Kevin is balanced, he is a hard worker and he will be great as governor."

jchambers@detroitnews.com