Far-right Republican candidates vie for lieutenant governor nomination in Michigan

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Former President Donald Trump has endorsed gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon's pick, Shane Hernandez, over Ralph Rebandt, who was beaten by Dixon in the Michigan Republican primary.

On Aug. 19, Tudor Dixon, the Republican nominee for governor of Michigan, announced former state Rep. Shane Hernandez as her running mate.

"Shane Hernandez as lieutenant governor will help to improve our schools, create safer communities, and improve our economy. Like me, Shane is concerned about the impact rising prices are having on our families," Dixon said.  

Hernandez, currently employed as a project manager in a construction company, was first elected to the Michigan House in 2016, serving as chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Fiscal Governing Committee. He spent four years in the legislature before running unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020,  losing in the Republican primary to Lisa McClain, the eventual winner of the seat in the state's 10th Congressional District.

In a campaign video released in 2019 that stresses his conservative bona fides, including his support for reducing taxes and "defending the unborn," Hernandez says he stands for "Hard work. Determination. A belief that the American Dream is always within reach." He claims, over images of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "Now, socialists threaten everything that makes our country great. Their agenda not only endangers our values, but jeopardizes our national and economic security." As the video switches to footage of former President Donald Trump walking with others through a factory, Hernandez praises him as "standing strong against the forces of socialism, but he needs help. In Congress, I will fight alongside President Trump and I will never relent." 

The Michigan Information and Research Service, which covers government in the state, analyzed his voting record in 2017 and named him the most conservative member of the House. 

In 2017, Hernandez co-sponsored legislation that would have prohibited abortion when electrical activity in the cells of an embryo, or what is incorrectly referred to as a "fetal heartbeat," is detected, which can be as early as six weeks' gestation. The bill died in committee.

While the Detroit Free Press reported on Aug. 23 that Hernandez did not respond to its reporter's question about his views on exceptions to abortion bans, his running mate has made hers clear: Dixon has been taking fire since she said in July in response an interviewer's hypothetical situation of a 14-year-old girl pregnant after rape by an uncle that the girl should carry the baby to term: "Because I know people who are the product — a life is a life for me. That's how it is. That is for me, my feeling." Dixon said." In August, Dixon told Fox News that her answer had been taken out of context, saying:

You know, I've talked to some other legislators about this, and they've met the same people that I've met who've told their story of, once this child knew, they were in their second or third trimester, and I am that child, you know, that I've talked to those people who were the child of a rape victim, and the bond that those two people made, and the fact that out of that tragedy there was healing through that baby? It's something that we don't think about because we assume that that story is someone who was taken from the front yard, then returned. That's generally not the story there, and those voices, the babies of rape victims that have come forward, are very powerful when you hear their story. And what the truth is behind that, it's very hard to not stand up for those people.

Asked about women, "mostly in Black communities," as the Fox interviewer said, whose experience of rape might have them asking, "Does she even get what's going on in my neighborhood, with me here in Detroit?" Dixon said, "You have to remember that Plan B, those options are still there, so when you talk about no options for those people, that's simply not true," before pivoting to discussing "what we can do to come around families in the state of Michigan," seeming to insist that the only reason a rape victim might not want to keep a resulting pregnancy is due to a lack of financial support.

Hernandez joined conservatives on other matters as well, including in his opposition to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposal in 2019 to raise the state gas tax by 45 cents in order to fund the rebuilding of what she called "the worst roads in the country." 

Notwithstanding Hernandez's conservative values, before he came around to praising Trump, he did not have a pure MAGA voting record: As Detroit Fox affiliate Fox 2 reported, Hernandez originally preferred Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential election, saying that Trump was not his first or second choice for president, and called Trump's wall construction at the border between the United States and Mexico "ridiculous."

On Aug. 22, Ralph Rebandt, who also ran for the GOP nomination for governor, announced his intention to seek the lieutenant government position at the Michigan Republican Party's nominating conference on Aug. 27 in Lansing, at which delegates select the nominees for downballot positions.

Rebandt is a far-right Christian pastor who told the website Ballotpedia in 2021:

I am passionate about policies that promote God, family, and country, and these are foundational to how I view public policy. ... Rarely is God discussed, seldom is the family unit considered, and what is best for the country has been replaced by global aspirations. It's time that strategies are employed that include an intentional discussion on how God, family, and country are affected by policy. ... Jesus Christ is my Savior and His example is the most important in my life. I have been blessed with many role models starting with my parents, many solid exemplary school teachers, my wife and beautiful family, and many pastors who have exemplified the humility of Christ. ... As far as national leaders, I have deep respect for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump because they all did the right thing in the face of fierce opposition.  

Trump has endorsed Hernandez. On Aug. 22, Hernandez posted the endorsement on Twitter, with a quote ascribed to Trump: "All Republicans must unite and work hard for Tudor and Shane."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.