BATTLE CREEK - Gretchen Whitmer, a six-year member of the state House of Representatives and a former Senate Minority leader in Lansing, was endorsed on Aug. 8 for Michigan governor on the Democratic ticket by delegates to the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council.
"She's been a great friend to the building trades, and a great supporter of organized labor in general during her time in the Michigan Legislature," said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. "We think she will be a very strong candidate in support of working people in the 2018 election."
State Republican lawmakers have large majorities in the state House and Senate, and both have grown increasingly conservative over the years. Putting a Democrat in the governor's office is seen by organized labor as the easiest path to restoring some balance in state government.
"It is time for change in Michigan and it starts with us," Whitmer told delegates. "The stakes in 2018 are as high as they can get. We are going to decide if we are going to be leaders again, or that we're content where we're at. And I can tell you that I am not content where we're at. I know we deserve better."
Michigan Democrats have not controlled a single lever in state government since 2010, the last year they had the majority in the House. With Republican lawmakers in control of the governor's office, the Senate and the House, a right-to-work law was imposed in 2012, the state's prevailing wage law is hanging on by a thread, teachers' access to pensions has been cut, and all manner of watered-down workplace standards have been imposed, such as the lowering of electrical apprenticeship ratios.
Whitmer declared her candidacy in early January and got a jump on the rest of the field of potential democrats running for governor. Through early August, she said she had visited 35 Michigan counties, on the path to visit all 83, and picked up 10,000 volunteers in her campaign in an attempt "to not take any one, or any vote, or any part of the state for granted."
"I am not going to make the assumption that a labor endorsement means that all the members are going to vote for me. I am going to show up and earn the support of every member," Whitmer said. "We as Democrats have got to start talking about the things that make the party what it is, and fight for working people.
"We are on the brink of changing the status quo in Michigan, of making this state work for the people again."