Top Michigan Democratic officials talk plans for 2021 at the Michigan Democratic Convention

Sunday, February 21, 2021 - 8:32pm

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Courtesy of Kate Weiland

The Michigan Democratic Party held its virtual Spring State Convention Saturday. Politicians from state, regional and federal governments emphasized unity while laying the groundwork for 2021.

The convention began with a video from two of the state’s top Democratic office holders,Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II.

Whitmer started by addressing Michigan’s calamities of 2020, including the pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 15,000 Michigan residents; the 500-year flood that occurred last May, donned this name because it is only likely to occur once every 500 years; and the calls for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd. 

Both Whitmer and Gilchrist focused their speech on their goals for 2021, which include distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, rebuilding the economy and prioritizing infrastructure, health care, education and child care.

“We must continue growing on the foundation we built in 2018 and 2020 to re-elect Garlin and me … Democrats up and down the ballot,” said Whitmer. “Let’s get it done.”

Following Whitmer and Gilchrist’s introduction, several motions to pass various resolutions were presented by the committees. Topics included the motion to elect Tim Smith, Michigan Democrats District 2 chair, as permanent convention chair and the approval of the 2021 resolutions packet and the credentialing and rules committee reports.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Gary Peters, D-Mich, talked about winning strategies in the 2020 election and plans moving forward with a focus on increasing voter turnout in the next election. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson discussed the impact of new voters, who have been credited with many of the Democratic wins across the state.

“We were able to see the most successful election in our state’s history where we had 5.5 million citizens vote — that’s more than had ever voted before in our state,” Benson said. “Even in the midst of a pandemic, we can really run a great election and see success.”

Benson also explained the importance of protecting democracy in the future by banning deceptive practices that encourage lying to and misleading voters about their rights, voter intimidation and open carry of firearms within 100 feet of a voting location. She also talked about her goal to make Election Day a national holiday.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also spoke at the convention, criticizing State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who has recently received criticism for his statements calling the Jan. 6 insurrection a hoax, proclaiming his support for militia extremist organizations and using sexist, misogynistic and racist language. She focused her speech on addressing big businesses, urging them to support the Democratic party.

“The Republican party now has become the party of racism, homophobia and transphobia, xenophobia, sexism and white nationalism, and it’s a party that pledges their allegiance to the support of one man instead of the people of our state and nation,” Nessel said. “It’s time for big businesses and all businesses to appreciate that diversity is good for business … democracy is good for business. In order to sustain the free market, we have to have a free country.”

A video shown at the event presented grassroots victories up and down the ticket. It featured commissioners and trustees from across the state that talked about their goals for 2021, including empowering supportive environments for LGBTQ+ community, improving education, working to improve housing, addressing homelessness and distributing the vaccine. The video focused on the importance of working at a local level to help elect people at the top of the ticket. 

U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich, and Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., said they plan to focus on civil rights, health concerns and security in the coming year.

Slotkin, a former CIA officer and Pentagon official, focused her goals on providing security in terms of health care, finances and physical security. She also laid out a 10-year plan for the state to ensure that the Democrats continue to hold office in the future.

Lawrence said she plans to focus on civil rights and police reform by drafting legislation and funding programming. Lawrence said she is also focused on mental health issues.

“There are too many people sitting in prisons right now who need mental health help right now,” Lawrence said. “We have seen this pandemic escalate mental health issues — from suicide in our children to domestic violence.”

Lawrence said she also hopes to address women’s health issues and equality in the workplace in terms of the wage gap.

“This pandemic has had a direct impact on women,” Lawrence said. “Women are the largest in those hero categories — teachers, caregivers, those who work at the cash register — and they are also the largest group that are paid under a living wage. Women are the largest demographic of poverty in America, so (we need to continue) fighting for women’s issues and fighting to get rid of poverty.”

U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Andy Levin, D-Mich., spoke about their priorities for the next year, which included distributing vaccines, increasing access to clean water, improving the lives of poor and working class people, tackling systemic racism through the Equality Act, fundamental immigration reform and addressing climate change.

“Everybody is equal,” Levin said. “Let’s defend human rights and democracy everywhere.”

The University of Michigan's chapter of College Democrats declined The Daily's request for comment. 

Daily Staff Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at kmwblue@umich.edu.


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