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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warns against complacency at MI Democratic Convention

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other statewide Democratic candidates at Sunday’s Michigan Democratic Party convention Sunday in Lansing. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)
  • Democrats nominated Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for the November election 
  • The top Democrats enter the general election with a significant fundraising edge over their likely GOP rivals
  • The Michigan GOP will solidify their nominees next weekend

LANSING — With abortion rights, voting rights and four years of progressive work at stake, Democrats can’t afford to let up the momentum heading into the November election, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other incumbent Democratic candidates told party faithful Sunday. 

Speaking at the Michigan Democratic Party’s state convention this weekend — where party delegates formally nominated candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and other down ballot races — Whitmer said the November election is “going to be close,” warning against complacency in statewide races where Democrats have a huge fundraising advantage.  

“There’s just too much at stake to take anything or any person…or any vote for granted,” Whitmer said. “It's going to take every single one of us knocking on doors and making phone calls, sharing our stories with our friends and family encouraging them to vote.”

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Whitmer will face Republican Tudor Dixon in the general election following Dixon’s win in a competitive GOP primary. Also up for re-election are fellow Democratic incumbents Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — both were officially nominated for the ticket during the convention Sunday, with Nessel making her entrance dancing to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell.” 

In all three statewide races, the Democrats have a significant cash advantage over Republican challengers.

Prior to the August primary, Whitmer reported raising $9.5 million and had $15 million in the bank. Dixon reported raising $1.7 million ahead of the primary and had $537,899 on hand. Super  PACs funded by the DeVos family and other prominent GOP fundraisers raised nearly $2.6 million as of late July to boost Dixon’s campaign

Benson, meanwhile, has raised $3.7 million so far this election cycle, with $3.2 million in cash reserves, according to disclosure reports last week. Kristina Karamo, Benson’s presumptive GOP opponent, reported raising $695,577 with only $277,250 on hand. Karamo recently held a fundraiser with former President Donald Trump.

Nessel ended the last reporting cycle with $2.5 million on hand, while presumptive challenger Matthew DePerno had just $125,706 in the bank. 

During this weekend’s convention, Whitmer, Benson and Nessel touted their records over the past four years and highlighted the recent court win in Oakland County that preserved abortion access in Michigan while legal challenges to a 1931 state abortion ban continue. The women, who all support abortion rights, emphasized sharp contrasts to their Republican counterparts on abortion and other key issues.

Democrats are concerned nationally about the midterm elections, particularly with ongoing inflation and President Biden’s persistently low approval ratings. But the likely GOP nominees for state office in Michigan face questions about their electability and their close ties to former President Trump. Benson urged attendees to resist taking the races for granted. 

To ensure a 2022 victory, Benson said, “we need to work harder than we did in 2018, we need to work harder than we did in 2020, harder than we’ve ever worked before to be sure that every single voter in this state knows that democracy is on the ballot this fall.” 

"We can win this, but we’re not going to win without the work,” she said. 

Also this weekend, Democrats selected their picks for Michigan Supreme Court, the state Board of Education and university boards.

While accepting the Democratic nomination to appear on the ballot, incumbent Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein noted that court's likely role in making final decisions on abortion rights, telling the assembled crowd the court will “have the final word in a woman’s right to choose in the state of Michigan.” 

The abortion issue is expected to factor heavily in Michigan this fall — a proposed ballot initiative seeking to add abortion rights to the state Constitution is currently pending before state elections officials, who are expected to determine whether the initiative qualifies for the ballot before the end of the month.

An Oakland County judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction barring county prosecutors from enforcing the state’s decades-old abortion ban while legal challenges are pending, meaning that abortion is likely to remain legal in Michigan at least through the election. 

Whitmer filed the lawsuit in Oakland County and has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in as quickly as possible. A separate suit challenging the law filed by Planned Parenthood of Michigan is also pending. 

Republicans will host their convention next weekend, where delegates are poised to formally nominate Karamo and DePerno and also consider Dixon’s recent choice for lieutenant governor, Shane Hernandez, a former state representative from Port Huron. 

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