Gabbard said she came to Michigan to campaign after what she says is a demonstration of strength and leadership by Dixon, who she wants to see hold the Biden administration and Congress accountable.
“She is built for this moment,” Gabbard said. “She has shown it through her track record of leadership and through her courage and speaking up, even knowing that speaking up comes at a cost.”
With 10 days until the midterm election, Saturday’s events were the first stops for Dixon and Hernandez as they adventure on a statewide tour to reach voters who may be in the crossroads.
They were met with cheers and applause from supporters. One protestor, brandishing a Whitmer-Gilchrist sign, was promptly escorted out.
“Everywhere we go we see new faces, we have more people,” Dixon said. “People are coming out across the state and it’s really exciting.”
Appealing to people of color appears to be one way the Republican candidates are attempting to reach voters in the final stretch of their campaign.
The kickoff event at Armando’s, a Mexican restaurant in Detroit, featured an invocation by a bilingual priest who spoke in both English and Spanish. The event that followed took place at an Albanian church in Southfield.
During his speech, Hernandez spoke about the values of his first-generation immigrant father who he said switched parties from Democrat to Republican 20 years ago.
“We have a great opportunity to reach these people in the middle again,” Hernandez said.
Ryan Foster, a Democrat and former candidate who lost in the congressional primary race for Michigan’s 7th District, said he wanted to come out to show support for the few Black candidates running in state level races with the Republican Party.
“We have to have some Black people to represent Michigan,” Foster said. “Democrats have nobody. We at least have a couple candidates on the Republican side.”
Gabbard urged audience members to connect with other voters who are feeling frustrated by the direction of the state and the nation.
“The things that are at risk right now are our fundamental freedoms, our families, our safety, the security of this country, our economy our livelihoods,” Gabbard said. “These are things that are affecting every one of us in this country, not just those of one party or another, and that’s really where the opportunity lies.”
Across town that afternoon, Dixon’s gubernatorial opponent and incumbent Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer was joined by former President Barack Obama at Renaissance High School in Detroit for her own rally.
Dixon touched on comments made by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist during the Democrat’s rally about education to drive her point home about the current state of education in Michigan.
“How can you stand on stage in Detroit and say you care about education when the latest scores just showed that kids in Detroit suffered more than almost anybody in the whole country?” Dixon said.
Fritz Beiermeister, 77, of Farmington Hills, said Dixon’s “common sense solutions” for schools has been a positive message for him as he feels it’s important to get kids on track with math and reading for their grade level.
“That’s a real problem, but it really needs to be focusing first among many other things that schools need to do,” Beiermeister said. “I certainly know they’ve got plans.”
Saturday was Dixon’s first public appearance since Michigan’s second gubernatorial debate this past Tuesday.
Terry Meier, 61, of Shelby Township, said she believes the debates made Dixon more visible to voters, and the bus tour might do even more.
“I just think it’s a good thing to get out and get into the community in different areas,” Meier said.
Polls have narrowed in the race — something both campaigns claim to have anticipated. FiveThirtyEight’s expected vote share for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has decreased from 55% in August to 51.7%. A poll from CNN Monday had the candidates 6 percentage points apart, Whitmer leading with 52% to Dixon’s 46%, a statistical tie within the margin of error.