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Democrats win Michigan Secretary of State and Attorney General positions


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Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel

According to poll results from The Associated Press posted at 12:13 a.m. Nov. 7, Democrat Jocelyn Benson won the seat for Michigan secretary of state in a 53.19 percent to 43.60 percent decision. 

AP also reported Democrat Dana Nessel defeated Republican Tom Leonard for Michigan Attorney General winning by approximately 4 percent. 

Dana Nessel, Attorney General

As of 1 a.m. Nov. 7, Democrat Dana Nessel stands approximately 100,000 votes ahead of opponent Tom Leonard, making her the next attorney general. With only Newaygo County left to cast their votes and with a population of around 50,000, it is nearly guaranteed Nessel will secure the position.

Her win broke the Republican streak for Michigan Attorney General. Prior to Nessel’s victory, Republicans Mike Cox and Bill Schuette held the seat for 15 years.

The position, most recently held by incumbent Bill Schuette, is meant to uphold the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement official. According to Michigan.gov, "the attorney general's responsibilities include safeguarding the public from violent criminals, helping victims of crime, leading the fight against human trafficking and opioid abuse, preserving Michigan's spectacular natural resources, protecting consumers and addressing illegal business practices.”

Nessel is a University of Michigan and Wayne State Law graduate, beginning her career as an assistant prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Following her work in the prosecutor’s office, Nessel opened her own legal firm in 2005 and became a renown criminal defense attorney.

The new attorney general is regarded as one of Michigan’s largest advocate for civil rights. As a member herself, Nessel has worked at great lengths for the LGBTQ community. According to Nessel’s campaign website, she oversaw the Harmon v. Davis in 2010 in which a Michigan court,  established that same-sex couples held the same custodial rights as heterosexual couples for the first time.  

In an interview with The Detroit Free Press, Nessel said, “I was distraught to read some of the arguments made on behalf of my state against my clients, but also against me and my children and my family,” referring to her wife, Alanna Maguire, and their twin sons. 

Nessel is also the president and founder of the Fair Michigan Foundation, later becoming a co-creator of the Fair Michigan Justice Project, an organization dedicated to investigating hate crimes committed against the LGBTQ community. In its first year of existence the Justice Project charged over a dozen capital offenses.

Environmental protection is another essential of her campaign. She vows to work tirelessly to shut down pipelines that threaten the environmental integrity of the Great Lakes, such as Enbridge Line 5. She is also a strong advocate for incorporating renewable energy sources into Michigander's daily lives.

Nessel has received numerous endorsements by organizations such as Democratic Attorney General Association, Michigan Education Association, Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, among many others.

For the next four years Nessel will serve as Michigan’s Attorney General, and she would be up for re-election in 2022. 

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State

Jocelyn Benson won the Michigan secretary of state position in the 2018 midterm election against Republican opponent Mary Treder Lang.

"Tonight is a win for everyone who has fought for a better democracy," Benson said in her victory speech. "Tonight is a win for voters everywhere that their time will be valued."

Benson will be replacing Republican incumbent Ruth Johnson who was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. 

Benson ran against Johnson in the 2010 election, losing only by a slim margin – around 5 percent of voters, according to ballotpedia.org.

The powers and responsibilities of this position differ state-by-state. In Michigan, the secretary of state monitors elections. This means guaranteeing voter security and prohibiting tampering by outside sources. 

The Department of State has more contact with Michigan residents than any other department and its executives must have the public’s interests at heart. The secretary of state is third in the governor of Michigan line of succession, following the lieutenant governor. 

A highlight of Benson’s campaign includes her “30 minute guarantee,” which sets the expectation that no one, no matter where they live, should wait more than 30 minutes to renew their driver’s license, register their vehicle or cast a ballot at their local secretary of state office.

Her other priorities include halting fee increases across the state. As former dean of Wayne State University Law School, Benson worked to decrease tuition cost and significantly increase scholarship funding.

Benson has an extensive educational background, first obtaining her Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, then her Masters in Sociology from Oxford University. Benson also received her Juris Doctor from Harvard University Law School.

Benson is the author of "State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process", the first major book to elaborate on the role of the secretary of state in "enforcing election and campaign finance laws, and promoting fair, accessible and secure elections," according to Benson’s Facebook page.

Benson has received endorsement from publications like The Detroit Free Press and The Lansing State Journal, and elected officials like Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Benson showcased Biden's endorsement in a recent Facebook post that read, “I am proud to endorse Jocelyn Benson for Michigan Secretary of State because she will make sure special interests don’t drown out the voices of working men and women by cleaning up the secret money flowing into our elections," Biden said. "Jocelyn is a leader who will make Michigan proud and that is why I am supporting her.”

Benson will be serving as Michigan Secretary of State for the next four years and the position will be open again in 2022.

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