Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer visited campus courtesy of the College Democrats on Thursday, Nov. 16th.
Whitmer was the third candidate to visit, with Abdul El-Sayed preceding her on Oct. 11 and Shri Thenader on Nov. 1.
“I look around at the Michigan my kids grow up in, and it hardly resembles the one we deserve,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer spoke of her qualifications, having worked for the AFL-CIO in her college years and having served 14 years as a state legislator, six in the Michigan House of Representatives and eight in the Michigan Senate, and serving as a Senate Minority Leader for part of that time. After she finished her last term in the state Senate, she planned to return to private life but was asked to take the position of Ingham County Prosecutor after the serving prosecutor resigned.
A number of issues drove Whitmer to run for governor, including the Flint water crisis.
“The Flint water crisis was the last straw,” Whitmer said. “We have got to make sure people have safe drinking water. Investments in infrastructure haven’t been made, and they don’t have it. It’s not an easy solution, but we can’t fix it if we have leaders who pretend it’s a problem we can’t fix.”
Aside from repairing the pipes in Flint, Whitmer’s main campaign issues included better public schools, affordable college education, better infrastructure, transparent government, bringing back local jobs, the opioid epidemic and preventing campus sexual assault.
“People used to pack up their families and move to Michigan for jobs, and they could afford to buy the cars they made,” Whitmer said. “Now we have Michiganders working two or three minimum wage jobs.”
Whitmer spoke on campus sexual assault, recounting her own experience as a sexual assault survivor.
“As a freshman, I was sexually assaulted and told my story on Senate floor in a women’s health debate,” Whitmer said. “We have a lot of work to do to protect our students, and I think it’s on our leaders and state government to hold campuses to higher standards,”
A self-described progressive, Whitmer still stressed the importance of bipartisanship in politics. She cited examples like her work with Gov. Rick Snyder to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour in 2018. Additional issues she is committed to addressing with bipartisan support are overturning the right to work law and ending pension tax laws.
Next year “is going to be an opportunity for us, and we can show the world what real progressive leadership looks like,” Whitmer said.
Towards the end of event, attendees asked questions they had about Whitmer’s platform.
“I was very impressed with her interest in the thoughts of people asking questions and the answers she had to many questions,” said Ali Shaina, a third-year public administration major and the secretary of College Democrats. “They seemed to be practical and realistic, which is important because our Michigan Senate will still most likely have a Republican majority after the 2018 elections.”