With 44 days left before voters hit the polls, the Democratic Party is stepping up its campaign efforts to reach out to specific groups of supporters across the state and in Ann Arbor.

On Saturday, the Washtenaw County Democratic Party hosted “Women for Bernero” — a rally to honor Planned Parenthood’s endorsement of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero for Michigan governor and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence for lieutenant governor.

Several individuals spoke — including Lawrence, Christine Green, state House of Representatives candidate for the 52nd district, and Sarah Scranton, executive director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan — at the Washtenaw County Democratic office on Main Street.

In an interview before the event, Lawrence said the aim of the rally was to celebrate the candidates’ pro-choice stance.

“The goal today is to have a rally to promote awareness that (Bernero and I) are both pro-choice tickets and also just to get the word out about our campaign,” Lawrence said. “We are campaigning very hard on the Main Street agenda, and we’re going all over the state to energize our supporters.”

The rally, which attracted a small group of families from Ann Arbor and campaign volunteers, was also organized to garner support from women voters. According to Lawrence, it’s critically important for candidates to woo women voters.

“Once you get women on board, women inherently bring other voters,” Lawrence said. “They are the best grassroots base that we have, and women believe in candidates that make the difference.”

The event opened with Green — who is running against Republican candidate and Washtenaw County Commissioner Mark Ouimet — pushing those in attendance to support her bid for a seat in the House of Representatives.

“We have some very clear distinctions between my Republican opponent and me, and one of those distinctions is reproductive freedom, and I am unambiguously pro-choice,” Green said to the crowd.

Green concluded her speech by emphasizing her belief that women have the right to make their own decisions regarding their bodies.

“I am 59 years old now, and I don’t think in my lifetime that I’m going to see a time when we don’t have to fight really, really hard for reproductive freedom,” Green said.

Scranton then spoke to the audience telling them that abortion is a women’s health and women’s rights issue.

Scranton, who has worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years, said legal questions surrounding abortion have surfaced every year since she has been an employee.

“Every single legislature has tried to ban abortion,” Scranton said. “We are very lucky in that we have a pro-choice governor right now.”

According to Scranton, Bernero and Lawrence are the only candidates in the gubernatorial race who “stand up for women’s health and a woman’s right to choose.”

Lawrence then stepped forward to accept Planned Parenthood’s campaign endorsement.

“I’m a proud mother of two beautiful children,” Lawrence told the audience. “I’m not anti-life. I’m very much pro-having-children in a planned environment and women having the right (to choose).”

After accepting the endorsement, Lawrence discussed other important campaign issues and highlighted the experience on the Democratic ticket.

“Bernero and I are two mayors who have rolled up their sleeves and are running for governor and lieutenant governor,” she said. “This has never happened in the state. It has never happened in the country.”

She went on to stress that previous political experience is vital for holding office, but especially in this particular election given Michigan’s economic state.

“This is a time of crisis. This is not a time for people to get a learning curve,” Lawrence said, referring to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder and his lack of government experience.

Lawrence highlighted ideas for economic reform, which includes plans for a state-run bank that will grant loans to small businesses.

“We must invest in our small business, and we’re proud to say that we’re the mayors from Main Street,” Lawrence said. “We take care of Main Street.”

She also discussed the need for politicians to focus on education, saying that lawmakers made the wrong decision to cut the Michigan Promise Scholarship, which gave thousands of dollars in scholarships to college students across the state.

“We made a promise to our young people and we broke it,” Lawrence said. “We told them that if you maintain a GPA that we’ll invest in you and make sure that you get an education and that you get scholarships. We broke that promise. The funding issues for our children’s education must be a priority.”

She concluded her speech by encouraging women to go out and vote for the Democratic ticket.

“The last time we sat on our hands and didn’t come out and vote Democratic, you know what happened? We got (former Republican Gov. John) Engler,” Lawrence said. “We cannot afford that. Michigan cannot afford that.”

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