Standing atop the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library Friday evening in front of thousands of Ann Arbor residents and University of Michigan students, faculty and staff waving signs reading, “Put Michigan First” and “Go Blue, Vote Blue,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan politicians encouraged the audience to vote for Democratic candidates down the ballot on Nov. 8.
“I know we have a tendency to only tune in when there’s a presidential election,” Whitmer said. “But who your governor is, who your lieutenant governor is, who your secretary of state, your attorney general are, your supreme court — (that) impacts your lives every single day.”
As part of her “Getting Things Done” tour across the state, Whitmer has held rallies in Holland, Marquette, Flint among other cities to mobilize Democratic voters. Whitmer will conclude the tour on Nov. 8 in Pontiac.
Whitmer invited Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to join her at her rally in the Diag. Members of Buttigieg’s team informed The Michigan Daily that his support for candidates in Michigan was not reflective of his position as Secretary. In an interview with The Daily before the event, Buttigieg said he wanted to tell U-M students and community members to act on their beliefs.
“If all young people vote, these elections wouldn’t even be close,” Buttigieg said. “So part of why I’m here, knowing that most of the people I’m addressing will probably already agree with me on most issues, is to make sure that you don’t just say it to your roommate or say it to yourself or say it on Twitter, but that you say it in a way that everybody has to listen to, which is the ballot box with that power that democracy places in your hands.”
Buttigieg said part of the importance of the midterm election is to ensure the rights of subsequent generations of Michiganders and Americans.
“Up until now, every generation has had more liberty, more rights and freedoms than the generation before,” Buttigieg said. “I think if you’re in college right now, you’re asking whether that is actually going to stay true or whether that’s going to change. The Supreme Court has raised the question of whether we have met the high-water mark of rights and freedoms in this country.”
Buttigieg, who ran for president in 2020, recently made news when he moved to Traverse City. He announced he plans to vote in Michigan in the general election. As a Michigan resident, he has found himself more passionate about state politics.
“I’m extra motivated now that I’m actually in Michigan and got to vote for (Whitmer) myself because frankly, I want my son and daughter growing up in a state with her at the helm,” Buttigieg said. “What does that mean policy-wise? Well, she’s invested more in K-12 education than I think ever happened before in state history. She is going to make sure that my family has the right to marry and that my daughter has the right to choose.”
Whitmer discussed the progress Democrats in office have made under her leadership and criticized Betsy DeVos, former U.S. secretary of education who backed Whitmer’s Republican opponent, Tudor Dixon.
“I am proud of the work (the Lieutenant Governor) and I and the Democrats in Lansing have done on behalf of the people in this state,” Whitmer said. “I am proud that it’s my lawsuit that’s protecting women’s rights to our own bodies. I am proud that it’s my veto pen that’s protecting our voting rights right now. And I’m glad that it’s me writing that education budget, not Betsy DeVos.”
During the event, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) and Michigan Supreme Court candidates Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, D-Southfield, and Justice Richard Bernstein also rallied for support.
Benson stressed the importance of fair elections. As Secretary of State, Benson’s current role is to ensure Michigan elections are safe, secure and accessible. She has criticized her Republican opponent, Kristina Karamo, who has denied the results of the 2020 election.
“We’re in a moment where history will look back and say, ‘What did you do in these last four days?’” Benson said. “And we all will answer that we did everything we can, leaving nothing on the field because we know what’s at stake, we know our democracy is on the line. We are together going to defend and fight for democracy.”
Buttigieg told The Daily that, following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, this election will act as a referendum on democracy and political violence.
“Democracy is on the ballot, because we have to send a message, even if you lean conservative, that it is not okay to run for an election where you only commit to accepting the results if you win,” Buttigieg said. “It’s not okay to trash American democracy. It’s not okay to cheer on political violence. These things should be really basic, but I think 2022 creates an opportunity — really, a responsibility — to assert those things.”
She recalled filing a lawsuit alongside Whitmer following the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade to block the enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortions.
“We went to court, and we made sure that 1931 draconian law that barred abortion under almost any circumstance did not go into effect,” Nessel said. “But here’s the scary thing: If my opponent becomes attorney general, he has vowed to prosecute as many people as possible under that 1931 law, and he’ll have statewide authority to do it.”
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Whitmer’s running mate and a U-M alum, spoke on the future of the state of Michigan. Gilchrist emphasized the importance of convincing family and friends to vote in this year’s midterm election.
“We will be the people that left our state better than we found it because we put in the work in 2022 that will last us for the next generation when we stand tall for democracy here in Michigan,” Gilchrist said. “We’re gonna make sure this is a Michigan where everybody has a place in our future.”
Whitmer concluded her remarks by saying she will continue working to better the state of Michigan in the face of political attacks and that she hopes the U-M community will back her in doing so.
“I’ll take all the ugliness that comes my way, and I will stand my ground and fight for the people in this state, no matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like, who they love or how they identify,” Whitmer said. “I just need a maize and blue army that’s got my back.”
Daily News Editor Anna Fifelski and Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.