It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s not Christmas, but it is time for the biennial elections. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Michigan voters will have the opportunity to vote for a variety of state-level politicians, including governor, Secretary of State and attorney general, as well as U.S. Representatives. Furthermore, three proposals will be on the ballot this upcoming Tuesday, covering several crucial policy areas.
Occupying much of the recent discourse around Michigan politics, the race for governor is hotly contested. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is up for reelection after spending the last four years in office. A near life-long public servant, Whitmer spent 13 years in the Michigan State Legislature. During her term as governor, Whitmer helped create thousands of jobs, increased funding for education and led the state through the pandemic.
She is opposed by Trump-endorsed Republican Tudor Dixon, who is new to politics and has spent her professional life working for her father’s steel foundry, as an actress and, most recently, as a conservative TV commentator. Key elements of Dixon’s campaign include increasing parental involvement in public schooling, opposing COVID-19 lockdowns and cutting down on corporate regulation.
The candidates’ divergent views and experiences are nowhere more apparent than on the issue of reproductive rights, which are at the forefront of many voters’ minds in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Tudor Dixon opposes exceptions for rape and incest, but supports exceptions to protect the health of the mother. Despite her staunchly pro-life stance, Dixon stated in a recent debate she would accept the results of Proposal 3, which would codify reproductive rights in the state if passed. Even with this cession, Dixon has expressed her disapproval of the proposal, although she has stated that she does not believe abortion should be an issue for the gubernatorial race. While the proposal on the ballot should be the determining factor on the matter, this Editorial Board has concerns that even if it passes, Dixon may implement roadblocks to abortion access or fail to respect the outcome entirely, a concern enhanced by her refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election.
On the contrary, Whitmer is in full support of Proposal 3 and intends to uphold the rights guaranteed under Roe v. Wade. She has evidenced this commitment not only through her urgency to protect reproductive rights before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but also through her continued advocacy for these rights since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn. In the fallout of the June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, she sued to block the enforcement of a strictly anti-abortion 1931 law that is still on Michigan’s books and has worked to share accurate information on abortion. If re-elected, she would seek to ensure that individuals have, and subsequently maintain, access to abortion care and other reproductive rights.
In addition to her advocacy for reproductive rights, another important issue Whitmer has been vocal about is gun control. In late July, Whitmer signed an executive directive aimed at reducing the amount of illegal guns and increasing compliance checks to identify those who cannot legally own a gun due to past criminal history. She has also expressed her support for background checks, secure storage and red flag laws.
There is also room for improvement on Whitmer’s promise to “fix the damn roads.” Despite being a major aspect of Whitmer’s 2018 campaign, this goal has not been comprehensively met: There has been only a 4% increase in the amount of roads rated “in good condition” since Whitmer took office in 2019. Should Whitmer be reelected next week, she should be held accountable for the promises she so ardently made to voters.
Even with these shortcomings, Gretchen Whitmer is the better candidate to lead the state of Michigan for the coming four years. Her track record has shown that she is a capable politician, in touch with Michiganders and aware of the issues most significant to Michigan. The other major-party candidate, Tudor Dixon, lacks experience and holds what many would consider extreme views. With consideration of all these factors, this Editorial Board endorses Gretchen Whitmer for Governor of Michigan.
Secretary of State Race
The race for Michigan’s Secretary of State is between Democrat Jocelyn Benson and Republican Kristina Karamo. Benson, the incumbent, has had an extensive impact on improving access to the Secretary of State’s functions with her emphasis on making more functions of the SOS available online. While in 2018, only 28% of all Secretary of State-involved transactions, like renewing a drivers license, could be done online, today 60% can be completed without having to step foot in a SOS office. This increased utilization of digital operations has resulted in an average office visit time of just 20 minutes — a shocking figure when considering the notoriously long wait times previous generations have endured.
As the Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing elections and ensuring a fair and democratic process, Karamo’s spreading of election misinformation should be considered. Karamo openly discussed her opposition to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, a position insufficiently backed by disproved claims of voter fraud. In contrast to Benson’s established success in this position, Karamo’s continued reliance on scare tactics and conspiracy theories make her a less suitable choice for the position of Secretary of State and as such, the Editorial Board is endorsing Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State.
Attorney General Race
Incumbent Democrat Dana Nessel is running against Republican Matthew DePerno for Michigan Attorney General. The position of attorney general holds significant influence, including the power to appoint state attorneys and the responsibility of investigating questions relating to elections and the removal of public officials — making the race extremely important in determining the future of Michigan’s justice system.
A topic of contention in the race is the investigation of DePerno for plotting to steal and tamper with election machines. As this investigation falls under the oversight of the attorney general’s office, Nessel appointed a special prosecutor to investigate DePerno in an attempt to avoid any conflict of interest. This showed her ability to be impartial and apolitical when necessary; an important characteristic for an attorney general. DePerno’s evident unpredictability makes Dana Nessel this Editorial Board’s preferred candidate.
District 6 House Race
The leading candidates in the U.S. House of Representatives race in Michigan’s 6th district, which includes Ann Arbor, are incumbent Democrat Debbie Dingell and Republican Whitney Williams. While Williams would be new to politics if elected, the Dingell family has a long-held political dynasty: Debbie was elected to her husband’s seat after almost 60 years of his service, and almost 22 years by his father before that.
Dingell vies for progressive policies related to health care and the environment. A proponent of expanding health care coverage, Dingell is working to restore previous protections under the Affordable Care Act. She has also worked on several pieces of legislation to increase fuel efficiency and protect the Great Lakes. In addition to these policies, Dingell advocates for progress within the automotive industry with a focus on uplifting new companies in Michigan.
Even though Williams’s website has an aesthetic flare that Dingell’s might not be able to compete with, it lacks substance relating to her stances on political issues. While there are not any glaring controversies related to Williams’s platform, its lack of specificity speaks for itself.
Considering the role Dingell plays on a national level, if she loses her incumbent seat, the House of Representatives will become one seat closer to having Republican Kevin McCarthy as the Speaker of the House. This will be dangerous not only to progressive initiatives but also the trajectory of American politics as a whole, as he would likely be influenced by some of the more extreme members of the Republican Party. Dingell’s seat is an important one that she should retain because of her involved role in the community and how she has wielded her role to help the constituents of the district. As such, this Editorial Board endorses Debbie Dingell for Michigan’s 6th district.
State Senator Race
Other contentious races on the ballot in and around Ann Arbor are those for state senators, in which Democrat Sue Shink is up against Republican Tim Golding in District 14, and Incumbent Democrat Jeff Irwin is up against Republican Scott Price in District 15. District 15 will be the less controversial of the two races, as Irwin is in a generally safe seat. The District 14 race, however, is a highly competitive one, as it extends beyond Ann Arbor into rural parts of the state.
Policy-wise, Shink’s goals for climate policy, pollution accountability and mental health support are more productive and rigorously outlined than Golding’s focus on family values and Second Amendment rights. Shink’s actionable policy goals lead this Editorial Board to endorse Sue Shink as District 14’s Senator. Given the fact that a Democratic majority within the Michigan Legislature would make policymaking more efficient under a Whitmer administration, we endorse Jeff Irwin as District 15’s Senator.
Proposals 1, 2 and 3
On the ballot alongside these elections are three ballot initiatives, labeled “proposals.” Equally, if not more important than the aforementioned races, these proposals concern the integrity of our state politics, the protection of democratic access and the safeguarding of reproductive rights for all Michiganders. It is key to take a similar degree of care in considering one’s choice on these initiatives, as their outcomes have the ability to determine the future of Michigan’s politics and the everyday life of its citizens.
Proposal 1 concerns term limits for state legislators and the requirement that they publicly disclose their personal financial assets and income sources. The initiative proposes the term limit for state officials be lowered from 14 to 12 years. Currently, state officials in Michigan are able to serve six years in the House and eight years in the Senate, but if this proposal were to be approved, they would be only be able to serve their tenure in one chamber of the Legislature. This would allow representatives to gain more experience in one chamber while also limiting the amount of time they spend in office.
The second section of Proposal 1 concerns the financial transparency of state officials. Michigan is just one of two states — Idaho being the other — that does not require elected officials to disclose their financial information. This aspect of the proposition is a common sense addition to the Michigan Constitution: politicians should be transparent about their earnings, as their constituents deserve the right to see who is funding their causes.
The approval of Proposal 1 is essential in protecting the ethics of Michigan’s state politics. Placing additional term limits on officials and requiring that they be more open about their earnings creates a more democratic and honest system for Michigan citizens, leading this Editorial Board to endorse a “Yes” vote on Proposal 1.
The next initiative on the ballot is Proposal 2, which, if approved, would expand voting rights in Michigan, lengthen the period to vote by absentee ballot and allow for multiple forms of voter identification. The “Promote the Vote” initiative, as it is being called, would promote both election security and accessibility, variables that have become increasingly important since the previous election cycle. In approving nine days of early voting, Proposal 2 would allow for a transition to more equitable and flexible elections, wherein all eligible Michigan voters have the chance to participate in the election process. Voting “Yes” for this ballot initiative is a vote to enhance the integrity of state elections and grant more democratic voting access. As such, our Editorial Board endorses a “Yes” vote on this proposal.
Proposal 3 is arguably the most notable of the aforementioned ballot initiatives. Also known as the “Reproductive Freedom for All” initiative, this proposition would establish the individual right for reproductive care for all Michiganders, including the right to make decisions about childbirth, contraception and abortion. It would also invalidate an abortion ban from 1931 which assigns criminal penalties for those who obtain or administer abortions in Michigan.
This initiative is the subject of current debate, with an extremely widespread “No” campaign that claims the proposition is “confusing” and “extreme.” But what this Editorial Board finds even more “extreme” is the alternative to the approval of this initiative: a “No” vote on the proposition leaves those who depend on reproductive health care in Michigan in a dangerous situation, one where the draconian 1931 ban could be enforced. It is essential that we approve this ballot initiative in order to validate reproductive rights and protect the future of abortion in the state of Michigan. As such, the Editorial Board recommends a “Yes” vote on Proposal 3.
Our vote has power, and it is essential that we recognize that fact. The future of the state of Michigan rests on the outcome of your vote, from your governor to your reproductive rights. You have the power to protect the lives, bodies and interests of Michiganders this year, and it is exceedingly important that you utilize your fundamental democratic right. Vote this year — in-person, early or on Election Day — and lead the change that you want to see in the state of Michigan.