By Tom Travis
“Are we gonna go backward or are we gonna put our foot on the gas?” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked a crowd of about 75 gathered for a campaign rally Friday at Union City Ball Park on Torrey Road near Flint’s Bishop Airport.
Along with Whitmer was a powerhouse lineup of leading Michigan Democrats, many running for office, and Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a member of the U.S. House’s Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Appearing with Whitmer were Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell and Raskin (D) from Maryland’s 8th District, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry, State Senator Jim Ananich, and Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
State Representatives John Cherry and Cynthia Neeley were present in the crowd but did not speak. Several candidates running for office in November’s election were present in the crowd as well including Jasper Martus and Cheri Hardmon.
A large touring bus served as the backdrop for the candidates’ stump speeches. The campaign stop, lasting less than an hour, included Rep. Raskin, who is serving famously on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Raskin thanked Rep. Kildee for the introduction, and expressed thanks for the mention of his book Unthinkable – Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy.
Raskin noted the day after his book was published, he and 961 other Americans were permanently banned from Russia by Vladimir Putin. “I’m banned in Russia but I’m welcome here in Flint, Michigan with these great Democrats.
“I’d like to invoke a bipartisan mood by quoting our last great Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people.’ That’s what the Democratic party is saying to us today,” Raskin said.
“Teach your children, your grandchildren, all the young people, that everything you need to know about voting is the same as driving. If you want to go forward you have to put it in ‘D’ and if you want to go backwards you have to put it in ‘R.’ Raskin concluded.
“Eat a damn vegetable, we need a strong army” – Whitmer
Each of the big name politicians urged the voters to “get out and vote,” and “take a friend when you vote,” and called for a “blue wave” in the Nov. 8 election. Noting the challenges of the campaign, Whitmer urged the crowd to, “Eat a damn vegetable, we need a strong army.”
Whitmer emphasized her first-term successes, listing, “fix the damn roads” and other infrastructure improvements and protecting reproductive rights of women in Michigan through Proposal 3 on November’s ballot.
She touted several reasons why voters should choose Whitmer/Gilchrist on Nov. 8. “We have pumped a billion dollars into public safety, made it a huge priority, getting our kids back in school, bringing on literacy coaches.
“We have made investments in rebuilding our infrastructure water, bridges and roads. We’ve put record investments in terms of revenue sharing so the municipality would get more resources to address some of the local roads. Ultimately as we see our society transforming from a combustion to electric vehicles. We need to make sure we’ve got a system that we can maintain and build out the infrastructure to make it resilient in transitioning our automotive industry. We’re making progress.”
“When we vote – we win! When we fight – we win! When we knock on doors – we win!” State Senator Ananich
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Sen. Ananich and Rep. Kildee all led the crowd in chanting, ” When we vote – we win! When we fight – we win! When we knock on doors – we win!”
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow talked about “caring for our neighbor – caring for people” while talking about health care expansion and mental health care. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the crowd the Republican opponents in this race are “crazy” and “dangerous.”
Nessel noted that her opponent for Attorney General, Matthew DePerno, is a supporter of Wolverine Watchmen militia group, some of whom have been arrested for conspiring to kidnap, attack and assassinate Governor Whitmer. Nessel talked about respect for the law as a law enforcement officer.
In a moment of levity Nessel cut jokes with six-foot-eight-inch Lt. Garlin Gilchrist. As she stood on a small, wobbly platform, each speaker addressed the crowd from, she called Gilchrist up and wrapping her arm around his shoulders said, “This is the only time he and I are the same height.”
“The people of Flint are important to us” Whitmer says
Speaking to the press after the rally EVM asked the governor what she has to say to Flint residents in light of the Flint Water Crisis charges being dropped.
“What happened in Flint under my predecessor’s leadership was incredibly sad,” Whitmer said.
“We have worked to get more resources in the schools and daycares to make sure kids have nutrition. This is an important aspect of mitigating the damages from the lead in the water. We’re almost done replacing all the pipes.
“As far as charges for the Flint water crisis, that is in the office of the Attorney General, that’s a question for her,” Whitmer said.
“I would say this, the people of Flint are important to us. That’s why the work that we’re doing in economic development to bring more opportunity, new jobs and to level the barrier to higher education is so important to helping people thrive.
We want to build a Michigan where everyone is on a path to skills and a good paying job and a good quality of life. And we’re making progress, but there’s more to do and that’s why right now this moment are we gonna go backward or are we gonna put our foot on the gas? You know where Garlin Gilchrist and I are on that — we want to put our foot on the gas and go forward,” Whitmer said.
EVM asked Attorney General Nessel the same question. She responded,
“Prosecutor [Wayne County] Kym Worthy and Solicitor General Fadwa A. Hammoud are very devoted to the residents of Flint and they are working their very hardest to do everything they can to represent them.
And they’re going to continue to do that. The thing is that we are just one branch of government, the executive branch. We can fight as hard as we want. We don’t control the court. All we can do is make the very best possible case we can to best represent people and protect people.”
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.