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Update on Thursday, Oct. 25:
A new poll, commissioned by the Free Press and its media partners from Oct. 18 through Oct. 23, shows both attorney general candidates having name recognition problems, with about 73 percent of those surveyed not knowing who they are. The poll showed Republican Tom Leonard and Democrat Dana Nessel tied, with 39 percent support each. Another 9 percent said they would vote for someone else, and 13 percent were undecided or refused to say how they would vote.
Dana Nessel, the Democratic nominee for Michigan Attorney General, believes the voters of Michigan deserve to hear where she and her Republican opponent, state House Speaker Tom Leonard, stand on the serious issues facing the state. However, Leonard has refused the invitation to debate three times — with MIRS News, on “Off the Record” with Tim Skubick and on “Flashpoint” with Devin Scillian. In response, Nessel held a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 24 in Madison Heights to speak about Leonard’s record, as well as her own.
“Tom, if you’re unwilling to defend your own record and your lack of legal experience and your record of pay-to-play politics and your attempts to gut their healthcare, then I will address your record for you,” she said.
Nessel, who has been “willing and eager” to debate Leonard head-to-head, did have an opportunity to debate him earlier this month at Macomb Community College, but the event was canceled.
Leonard reportedly blamed Nessel for the cancellation of the debate, to be staged by the Macomb County Bar Association, accusing her of backing out because independent candidate Chris Graveline was going to participate.
Watch the press conference here:
When asked about this during the press conference, Nessel said, “I think everybody would agree that there are only two viable candidates in this race. None of the third party candidates are polling high enough in any poll that I’ve seen that they really have any measure of viability. And, I’m a first-time candidate here, but the way that I’ve seen debates traditionally done, if you’re not polling at a certain level, you’re not considered viable and you’re just kind of taking up the oxygen in a debate where really we should be hearing from people who actually have a chance at being seated in that office.”
Other third-party candidates for attorney general include Libertarian Lisa Lane Gioia and U.S. Taxpayers candidate Gerald T. Van Sickle.
Leonard has narrowed Nessel’s lead from 13 percentage points in early September to 7 percentage points in early October, according to polls commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV.
A poll ranging from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 had the alternative candidates getting almost 6 percent support from likely Michigan voters, with Gioia getting the most, backing at 4.2 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Nessel, who has been consistently ahead in the polls, explained why she believes it’s so important that Leonard debate with her.
“I think a lot of times people don’t think of the position of attorney general being quite as important as I think it is,” she said. “For an election like this, whether I’m ahead, whether I’m behind, whatever the polling tells us, I think we’re the viable candidates that actually have an opportunity to be elected and the public ought to know, they ought to understand what our positions are and have a chance to hear us out.”