Editor’s Note: The Michigan Daily does not officially endorse Gretchen Whitmer for governor. This story is one in a series of stories about the gubernatorial candidates. The Daily continues to reach out to other gubernatorial candidates for comments and interviews.
The Michigan Daily recently met with gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer to discuss her platform and goals for Michigan if elected governor. A former state senator, Gretchen Whitmer is running against Indian-born entrepreneur, Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed, a University of Michigan alum, for the Democratic candidacy. The primary election is set to take place Aug. 7.
Whitmer says she is the only candidate willing to implement change.
“I am really proud of the progressive record that I have earned over the years,” Whitmer told The Daily. “It’s one thing to take a position; it’s another thing to actually show up and do the work. Whether it was women’s health when I shared my story as a sexual assault survivor, or it was negotiating and increasing the minimum wage or getting health care expanded to 680,000 people, I’ve been on the front lines and I know how to get things done.”
Whitmer explains her roles as a mother, lifelong Michigander, former prosecutor and public servant have not only prepared her to become governor, but also make her the most viable candidate.
“I am the one person who has experience in state government and we’re hiring someone to run our state, to oversee our schools and our higher education institutions as well as our criminal justice system, the cleanliness of our water, the health care of our citizenry, and I think that we need someone who knows what they’re doing,” Whitmer said. “Experimentation of a governor who didn’t have any background in state government and a president who doesn’t have any background, we’ve seen people pay a dear cost for that.”
As a mother, Whitmer claims to have insight into the daily terror of school shootings.
“I’ve got kids in public schools in Michigan and they’re 16 and 14 and they’re scared of that, their teachers are (scared), as a parent I am too,” Whitmer said. “I’m tired of all these politicians spewing rhetoric and not getting anything done. I know that we can make our schools safer and our campuses safer by having a zero-tolerance policy for guns on campuses. The answer is not more weapons; it’s no weapons.”
Whitmer cites creating universal background checks, banning bump stocks, implementing waiting periods for gun sales and eliminating the possibility of people with domestic violence histories obtaining guns as some of the steps she will take in combatting gun violence.
Sexual assault on college campuses
In regard to her position on addressing sexual assault on college campuses like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Whitmer says she is proud of the work she pursued as prosecutor during the Larry Nassar trial.
“(B)ecause of it that guy will never see the light of day again as a free person,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer emphasized improving government resources for sexual assault survivors to prevent cases like Nassar’s from occurring in the future.
“We as a country are failing to protect women and some men on campuses,” Whitmer said. “The real investment of resources to support women is when they come forward, believing women when they come forward, empowering them to get the support, counseling (and) legal counsel that they need when they do.”
Beyond providing support for survivors, Whitmer explains there has to be more awareness about what constitutes sexual misconduct at an earlier age. According to Whitmer, children need to learn about consent to help survivors and stop sexual assault.
“It’s one thing to take a position; it’s another to make it a reality by giving it the dollars that it needs to execute,” Whitmer said.
Women’s rights and closing the pay gap
In addition to supporting sexual assault survivors, Whitmer is a strong advocate for women’s rights in the workplace.
“Right now the pay gap is 70 cents on the dollar,” Whitmer said. “(That) is what a woman makes compared to a man. That’s wrong. There are so many households being led by women right now. That means our kids are paying a price for this historic gender inequity.”
In the governor’s office, Whitmer explains she would work to close the pay gap between genders.
“Pay equity is something I fought for when I was in the legislature and that as governor, I will use the power of my office to address and to make sure women and people of color get the pay that they deserve,” Whitmer said. “This is a pervasive problem and families across Michigan are paying for it because our government isn’t standing up for us.”
In light of recent controversial issues with immigration and the Supreme Court ruling in favor of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Whitmer highlighted the diverse nature of Michigan itself.
“One of the greatest strengths of our state is that we have a great diverse population; people used to come to our state from all over the world because you could have a really good life in Michigan: good schools for your kids, clean water, safe roads and a job that could support a family,” Whitmer said. “And that’s an important strength and it’s also something that is at risk with Donald Trump in the White House.”
Even though a governor cannot directly impact federal or international law, Whitmer said she would use her power to protect Michigan residents.
“I would use every ounce of power in the executive office to protect the people that are in our state from unconstitutional attacks and searches,” Whitmer said. “I would withdraw our National Guard troops from the border and I would use my authority to sue the government on behalf of the children that have been separated from their parents.”
Working with Republicans at the state level
As governor Whitmer recognizes she would be a Democrat amid many Republicans.
“We’ve got to be able to build relationships and that something I’ve got a proven track record on and I know that is going to be absolutely necessary as we continue to move forward in this state,” Whitmer said.
According to Whitmer, her experience as a former senator has prepared her to continue working alongside Republicans.
“I’ve got the ability to cross the aisle when we can find common ground,” Whitmer said. “I did that when we delivered Medicaid expansion for 680,000 people in the state; I did that when I negotiated the minimum wage increase. In a sea of Republicans on both issues, as a leader of the minority party I was able to get something done that really helped people in our state.”