MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. - Voters got a rare look at the three front-running gubernatorial candidates from both Democratic and Republican parties on Thursday as they shared the stage for a bipartisan debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference.
In just an hour, moderators grilled the candidates on infrastructure, education, the economy, taxes, medicaid and much more. While there's only about two months until the August 7 primary, candidates still have a lot to prove.
State Senator Patrick Colbeck was called out by moderators for his attacks on Democrat Adbul El-Sayed. Colbeck has claimed in the past that El-Sayed has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been deemed a terrorist organization by many countries, because El-Sayed was involved with the Muslim Students Association while in college. Colbeck's claims have been criticized by many.
"To be frank it's a distraction," El-Sayed said in a rebuttal to Colbecks claims and called the senator's stance "exclusionary thinking."
Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Schuette took every opportunity to remind the audience of his endorsement from President Donald Trump.
“That’s one reason President Trump has endorsed my candidacy, he knows I’m gonna cut taxes in Michigan," Schuette says.
Flint, a city still without clean water, was only brought up once halfway through the debate.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley teed off that issue by saying Flint is the "easiest city in the world to fall in love with," adding that he will "see the work through."
Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer rebutted by blaming the current administration for the failures in Flint.
“You can’t learn anything if you don’t look back and look at the mistakes that happened," Whitmer says.
Meanwhile, Democrat Shri Thanedar has been on the offensive as his status as a progressive has been under fire following the resurfacing of a CPSAN video showing Thanedar at a Marco Rubio rally in 2016.
Thanedar defends himself, saying he's also been pictured at Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton rallies.
“I’m a lifelong Democrat. 93 percent of my donations are to Democrats," Thanedar tells FOX 17. “We need to work together to solve our problems. I’m not going to demonize Republicans, I’m not going to, you know there’s way too much polarization.”
The topic of legalizing recreational marijuana has been at the forefront with current Michigan lawmakers as their deadline to take action on the bill comes on Tuesday.
If the bill is adopted, the legislature could later amend it, which means they would have more control over the legalization in the future. There has also been speculation that Republicans were considering legalizing marijuana now to keep more liberal voters from heading to the polls in November.
Outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder has said repeatedly he doesn't have an opinion on legalizing marijuana use.
Following the debate, Whitmer told FOX 17 how new tax revenue would be used, should the state legalize recreational marijuana.
“Some of it will go into healthcare, some of it will go into education," Whitmer says. "But the fact of the matter is the lack of leadership with our infrastructure has left us in a place where we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to fix our cars instead of fixing the roads.”
If lawmakers deny the bill or take no action, the matter will be up to voters in November.