Governor Gretchen Whitmer and gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon sat down Tuesday night for their final debate before the Nov. 8 election.

The two candidates were critical of each other, but also had a lot of good back-and-forth on policy.

The candidates were first asked about Prop. 3, the proposal that would reinstate previous abortion rights in Michigan. Whitmer cited support for Prop 3., saying that it doesn’t take away parental rights. Dixon rebutted, saying it does take away rights and claimed Whitmer previously supported “partial-birth abortions” and compared Prop 3. to laws in China

and North Korea. Whitmer fired back, accusing Dixon of calling a 14-year-old rape victim’s pregnancy a good thing.

The next topic was inflation. Whitmer said that inflation is a global issue, not one related to the current presidential administration, but that she does want to keep money in people’s pockets. Dixon said Whitmer has vetoed several bills that would help do that, citing the vetoes of a gas tax holiday and child tax credits.

They then moved onto Line 5. Dixon showed support for Line 5, calling Whitmer’s environmentalist stance radical. Whitmer said she wants to expand clean energy.

On education, Dixon called improving education a pillar of her campaign, saying Michigan is in the bottom 10 in the nation on testing scores. Whitmer responded, saying Michigan education was underfunded for decades. She touted a large increase in education funding as an accomplishment of her administration.

On school shooters and safety, Whitmer called for safe storage of firearms. She then accused Dixon of not knowing what safe storage is. Dixon called for armed security in schools, as well as schools having only one entry point. Whitmer responded, saying that victims in past shootings died in schools with those exact safeguards.

The topic then shifted to banned books and literary censorship. Dixon claimed that inappropriate and pornographic books were in Michigan school and public libraries. Whitmer responded, saying Dixon supported censorship in schools and that Dixon was attempting to divert attention away from gun violence.

On roads, Whitmer touted the reconstruction of many damaged roads. Dixon claimed Whitmer vetoed funding that would fund road repair. On internet infrastructure, Dixon said she would support allying with internet companies to expand broadband to rural areas. Whitmer said she created offices to increase broadband access, saying her administration added internet to over 22,000 homes.

The moderators then asked the candidates to say something positive about their opponents. Dixon cited Whitmer’s support for her daughters and women across Michigan. Whitmer echoed Dixon’s compliment, saying it’s difficult to run for office as a mother and woman.

On COVID-19 vaccines, Dixon said it should not be a requirement for kids to attend school. Whitmer said she would also not require it, but she chastized right-wing conspiracy theories regarding the vaccine.

You can watch WLNS’ Josh Sanchez break down the debate in the player above.

The stakes are much higher in this final debate for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer than they were at the first debate on Oct. 13.

After a strong performance in the first debate and with the influx of millions of dollars and belated TV advertising, GOP challenger Tudor Dixon has made this a contest that is much closer than the governor’s camp would prefer.

Following that debate, one polling firm had it as a statistical dead heat, but the same firm reports this week that the governor has a six-point advantage, with 6% of the voters still sitting on the fence.

Dixon will try to corral those undecided voters, but her chances of getting all of them are not very good, according to pollster Bernie Porn.

“When you look at the undecided votes, it’s probably going to split right down the middle,” said Porn.

The governor should be mindful that she needs to motivate more African-American voters to turn out for her, which is why former President Barack Obama will be in Detroit Saturday at a noon rally, and why they are running a TV commercial for the governor.

With her opponent now nipping at her heels, will Whitmer be more aggressive than in the last debate?

While voters expect both candidates to harp away at their opponent’s shortfalls, they also want to hear the candidate’s own vision on what they will do if elected.

Dixon and Whitmer will have to balance the attacks with a positive message and if they hit too hard on the negatives, they run the risk of turning off the very voters they need to win.