On Tuesday, Michigan voters made a clear statement: we want to improve our schools, colleges and universities; clean up the environment; create good jobs; respect working families and their unions; provide healthcare for those in need; and so much more. We want our state back. And we went a long ways toward taking it back.
Before commenting on the results, I want to say a word about you. The responses we received to our text messages were overwhelmingly not just positive, but invigorating. Yesterday, members sent us selfies wearing the “I vote” sticker, some on their foreheads. Members thanked us for providing the information on candidates and frankly, for being the pain in the neck we were reminding you about our #RedforEd Walks, having a plan to vote, and more. At times staff would text sitting together and we would shout out the great responses. Thank you.
Concerning the vote, it was a clean sweep at the top of the ticket. With Gretchen Whitmer and Jocelyn Benson, we will have two outstanding AFT members as Governor and Secretary of State. More importantly, two people who are on the side of students and educators and their unions. Garlin Gilchrist is the present and the future–so smart and so motivating. With Dana Nessel, we will have an incredible fighter as Attorney General. How fitting that the attorney who won the landmark marriage equality case replaces the attorney who lost it.
The top of the ticket wasn’t our only clean sweep. AFT Michigan endorsed candidates swept all eight state education board seats. Our friends will now have strong majorities on the boards of the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Michigan State University as well as the State Board of Education. I want to particularly note Paul Brown, an AFT member who will now serve on the University of Michigan board.
We picked up seats in the State Senate and State House, getting us closer to winning those chambers in 2020 (Our “AFT member caucus” in Lansing will double—with Sheryl Kennedy and Adam Hollier joining Erika Geiss and Leslie Love). We re-elected Senator Stabenow, flipped two congressional seats, and officially helped send Rashida Tlaib to Washington.
We picked up one seat on the state Supreme Court. And by passing Proposals 2 and 3, Michiganders said no more gerrymandering and no more voter suppression–we want increased access to voting in free and fair elections.
Voters recognized the need for increased education funding by approving ballot issues across the state. In Metro Detroit districts where we represent workers, more than 60% of people voted to increase funding for Ecorse, Henry Ford College, Roseville, Utica, Van Dyke and Wayne County Community College.
Last week, I thanked all the members who contributed in any way they could to these campaigns. I also want to thank our staff for developing and implementing a solid political program (particularly including one staffer on leave since May, Julie Rowe, who led the state-wide field operation for the Michigan Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign).
This election season showed what we, the labor movement and our allies, can do if we put our mind to it, if we stick together, if we stay focused on our goal. This is how we will defend the attacks on the horizon in Lame Duck next month and how we will work with our new friends in office to build a better Michigan.