Michigan has a Democratic governor again.
Gretchen Whitmer, a former state senator, defeated Bill Schuette, the state’s Republican attorney general. She will succeed Rick Snyder, the two-term GOP governor.
Whitmer ran as a pragmatic liberal who was comfortable working across the aisle in order to win support for policy initiatives. As an example, she cited her pivotal role in Michigan’s Medicaid expansion, while she was minority leader in the Senate. More than 680,000 Michiganders got insurance because of the expansion, which was part of the Affordable Care Act.
Going forward, she promised to focus on education, job training, and ― especially ― transportation infrastructure. Her rallying cry was a promise to “fix the damn roads.”
Schuette trailed in the polls for the entire campaign ― weighed down, apparently, by his past opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the generally low approval ratings for the GOP in the state.
Whitmer was not the first choice for progressives and in a tough primary battle with Abdul El-Sayed, former public health director for the city of Detroit, she came under attack for not endorsing more ambitious ideas like bringing a single-payer health system to Michigan.
But Whitmer bristled at the suggestion that she was an inauthentic liberal or somebody afraid to take brave stands. Supporters frequently noted that she first came to fame when speaking out on the Senate floor against a GOP proposal to exclude abortion coverage from insurance.
During that speech, she revealed for the first time publicly that, while in college, she had been raped. During her campaign, she championed women’s rights and promoted herself as somebody who would protect access to abortion, even if conservative federal judges eroded that right at a federal level.