MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — The Mackinac Policy Conference came to a close Thursday, wrapping up with the highly anticipated Michigan GOP debate for governor. Candidates discussed guns in schools, the economy, abortion rights and how much they all would love Trump's endorsement.
"I'm not a politician, I'm a businessman," GOP candidate for governor Kevin Rinke said as he kicked off the debate.
The debate gave an opportunity to lay out potential policies and also touched on hot button issues like abortion and the recent mass shootings.
“I would do a single entry entrance into every school, I would get gun sniffing dogs and I would hire retired law enforcement or retired veterans to help protect those. Because schools as a gun-free zone are killing zones," GOP candidate for governor Ralph Rebandt said.
The debate however was still plagued by the shadow of candidates who got kicked out of the race for having invalid and fraudulent signatures.
The August primary is now just two months away and the four GOP gubernatorial candidates are trying to prove why they deserve to go against Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the November general election.
Of the four candidates that took the debate stage Thursday, two were new additions. James Craig and Perry Johnson were supposed to debate instead if Tudor Dixon and Ralph Rebandt.
Last week, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers denied five of the ten GOP candidates for governor, including Craig and Johnson, for not having 15,000 rvalid voter signatures to get on the ballot.
The board said those candidates hired firms to help them get those signatures.
The Michigan Court of Appeals also denied three of the pending lawsuits to get candidates back on the ballot.
Some of them already have said they will take the issue to the Michigan Supreme Court, with Johnson already starting that process and Craig hinting he'll do the same.
On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court denied Johnson and Michael Markey Jr.'s appeals.
“You have to make sure you have that quality check when they come into your campaign," GOP candidate for governor Tudor Dixon said.
Governor Whitmer even poked fun of the signature issue during a roundtable Thursday, when the moderator joked, “But I’m actually announcing that I am running for governor.” To which Governor Whitmer responded, “Go get those signatures.”
There are still a total of five GOP candidates in the running for governor, with four of them making an appearance Thursday and still relying on former president Donald Trump for pull.
“I have not personally asked for his endorsement, I would gladly accept it. Trump is still my president,” said candidate Garrett Soldano.
Morning anchor Ruta Ulcinaite spoke one on one with Tudor Dixon about the disqualified candidates and her recent endorsement from the Devos Family. You can watch the full interview below.