MADISON, Wis. – Democratic Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers and his Republican challenger, Tim Michels, clashed over crime, guns and abortion during their only debate Friday night, making it clear at every step that their positions on critical issues affecting the state could ‘to be more distant.
The race between Evers and Michels, whose family owns a successful construction company, will likely be one of the closest races in the country and will have major implications for abortion rights and education, as well as elections.
While Friday night’s debate was entirely civil, the two candidates showed clear differences between them on important issues.
On the right to abortion, Michels reiterated that she would support an abortion ban that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, a change from her previous stance on the issue. Until last month, when Michels changed his stance, he had steadfastly supported an 1849 state law banning abortion in almost all cases that was re-enforced after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. . Wade in June.
“I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for that,” Michels said on Friday. He said he was not against contraception, but avoided directly answering a question about whether, as governor, he would try to hinder – or punish – Wisconsin women seeking abortion assistance out of state. .
The last argument, Michels said, was “something we’ll have to sit down and work out on,” but added that “it wouldn’t be this radical guy with border controls.”
Evers, for her part, said that “women should have the ability and the right to make decisions about their own health care, including reproductive health care, and this includes abortion.” You called Michels “radical on this problem”.
Regarding crime, Michels promised he would “provide bold leadership and reduce crime” and “make sure law enforcement has the necessary funds.” Michels did not give details on a plan to achieve those goals, but said he “will talk to the bad guys, if you want, on election night” if he wins and tell them “if they’re not willing to do it on time, they shouldn’t commit the crime.
Evers said fighting crime “isn’t just about talking tough” but “providing the resources so those police officers can do the job.”
On firearms, Evers reiterated his support for universal background checks and “red flag” laws that remove firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others, while Michels complained that “the the left always just wants to take away their weapons. “
Michels criticized the red flag laws as “unconstitutional” and “a slippery slope” and expressed his belief that “without due process,” such laws would result in the “seizure” of weapons from law-abiding individuals.
Evers responded by saying that “responsible gun owners don’t have to worry about red flag laws.”
The two also offered completely different answers to the question of whether they believed the 2020 elections in the state were rife with fraud, a disproved claim that was falsely repeated by former President Donald Trump.
Michels said “illegal voting took place in the last election” despite no evidence of widespread fraud.
Evers, on the other hand, clearly stated that “the last elections were safe and there was no fraud”.
“The reason people are worried is that we have people like my opponent who keep talking about massive fraud without having any idea or detail,” he said.
During the run-up to the Republican primary, Michels repeatedly claimed there had been fraud in the 2020 election, echoing Trump’s disproved claims. While he sometimes joked, Michels also said during the primary that he was open to efforts to decertify Biden’s victory in the state, even if there is no legal vehicle under state or federal law to revoke a state’s electoral votes.
In a rare moment of agreement on Friday night, both men pledged to accept the election results.
The 60-minute confrontation, held in a TV studio in Madison, was the only debate between the two candidates before the November 8 election.
Evers and Michels are locked in a close contest. RealClearPolitics’ latest poll media showed the race garnered around 48% support for each candidate. The latest Marquette Law School poll, released Wednesday, showed that Evers is slightly ahead of Michels among the likely voters, 47% to 46%, within the margin of error. Cook’s non-partisan political report views the race as a blow.
Wisconsin’s pivotal battleground is among the states where Biden scored his smallest wins in 2020, winning by less than 21,000 votes. In 2018, Evers beat Republican Governor Scott Walker by less than 30,000 votes.