Whitmer campaigning as Michigan gubernatorial candidate who can accomplish most

Former Michigan Senate Democratic Leader touts goal-oriented approach

Gretchen Whitmer at the Oakland County Petition Kickoff at the Gerry Kulick Community Center in Ferndale on Oct. 8, 2017.
Gretchen Whitmer at the Oakland County Petition Kickoff at the Gerry Kulick Community Center in Ferndale on Oct. 8, 2017.

DETROIT – The first sentence you’ll see on the “issues” section of Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign website is a quote from the candidate herself.

“Michigan needs a governor who can get things done that will actually make a difference in people’s lives right now.”

It’s a mantra oft-repeated on the website and by Whitmer, the former Democratic Leader in the Michigan Senate and Ingham County Prosecutor. While her gubernatorial primary opponents, Abdul El-Sayed and Shri Thanedar, are campaigning on the progressive values embodied in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run, Whitmer has focused on the immediate positive impact she plans to have on the lives of Michiganders.

“It’s time to fix the damn roads” is the first in a series of proposals presented on the campaign website. The expletive that Whitmer has come to be associated with belies the comprehensiveness of her infrastructure plan, which includes investments in Michigan’s roads, bridges, water systems, high-speed broadband internet and the Soo Locks that connect Lakes Superior and Huron. The plan is less clear about where the money will come from for these ambitious projects, though it may require a bond that would be repaid with tax dollars.

Whitmer also touts a detailed education plan that, among other priorities, aims to phase in universal pre-kindergarten, provide more support staff for schools, increase teacher pay, implement quality and accountability standards and reform the School Aid Fund. She also wants to create the Michigan Opportunity Scholarship, which will provide two years of debt-free postsecondary education or skills training. Scholarship recipients would be required to enroll full-time, meet GPA and attendance standards, engage in community service and participate in a mentoring program.

In addition to proposals for infrastructure and education, Whitmer also has a jobs plan, a water plan, and a “Michigan Sunshine Plan” that claims to hold government accountable through greater transparency and new rules for lobbying and campaigning. Her website also touches on a number of other issues in less detail, including health care, the opioid crisis and civil rights.

Whitmer touts her experience as a lawmaker in Lansing to bolster her central claim of being the get-it-done candidate. "The last two governors didn't have any background in state legislative government. ... I think that it made their lives a lot more difficult when trying to make their agenda become a reality," she says.

During the first Democratic gubernatorial debate on June 20 in Grand Rapids, she highlighted her ability to reach across the congressional aisle and compromise effectively. The overall message seems to be working for the Democratic establishment favorite. Michigan Information & Research Service recently polled Whitmer at 40%, while primary opponents Thanedar and El-Sayed stood at 19% and 17%, respectively.

Check out where Democratic gubernatorial candidates Abdul El-Sayed and Shri Thanedar stand on the issues. And watch “Decision 2018: Democratic Gubernatorial Debate” Thursday, July 19 at 8 p.m. on WDIV-Local 4 or stream the debate live on ClickOnDetroit.com.