Michigan gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer brings campaign to CMU


Gretchen Whitmer speaks to students of CMU and residents of Mount Pleasant on September 9 in the Mackinaw Room of the Bovee University Center.

Students and members of the community gathered in the Bovee University Center Mackinaw Room on Saturday to hear 2018 Michigan gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer share her platform and hear their concerns. 

Whitmer is one of four declared candidates running in the Democratic Party's primary for governor. She previously served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2000-06, and served as the Senate Democratic Leader from 2006 to 2014. 

The event was organized by the College Democrats at Central Michigan University. Ethan Petzold, president of the registered student organization, said the event was a chance for voters to hear from a potential future governor. 

Whitmer briefly outlined views on the state and her commitment to high-quality, affordable education at all levels. She took questions from the audience, which was made up of approximately 30 people. 

Several times during the Q&A, Whitmer asked attendees how they would like her to approach certain issues. 

“I want you to tell me what you want me to know and what you want me to talk about,” Whitmer said. “That’s when I’m learning the most and that’s what helps make sure I’m building a platform that solves the problems that we need solved.” 

Autumn Gairaud, a member of the College Democrats, said she is concerned about a recent proposal from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in regard to Title IX -- a policy that prevents discrimination based on sex. 

DeVos’ proposal would reverse Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assault. Gairaud said she believes the new regulations would shift policy from protecting survivors of sexual assault to protecting the offenders. 

Whitmer said she was “floored” by the DeVos' actions. She pointed to her six-month tenure as prosecutor of Ingham County where she created a domestic violence and sexual assault unit to coordinate with the campus of Michigan State University to prosecute offenders. 

“We need a governor who is going to make campus assault, protecting students and protecting people on campus a real priority,” Whitmer said. 

Luz Vera Smith, an immigrant from Mexico, was moved to tears expressing her fear about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals under the Trump administration. She wanted to know Whitmer’s stance on DACA and how she would protect the children of immigrants, referred to as Dreamers.   

Whitmer said voters must pressure congress to prevent the deportation of Dreamers.  She added that she would use the governorship to stand up to Trump. 

“We are not going to let Donald Trump utilize police forces and our universities to get information (on Dreamers) -- it’s wrong,” she said. “Democratic governors are standing up and taking that position and I think that’s the most important thing a governor can do.” 

Other policies Whitmer laid out during the Q&A include: 

  • Support unions and unemployment benefits. Whitmer said she is proud to have been a member of the American Federation of Teachers and referred to “right to work” laws as “corporate servitude” laws. 
  • Work to improve the regulation of charter schools, and promote nonprofit charters instead of for-profit charters. 
  • Consult experts to improve Michigan’s water quality -- something Whitmer thinks Michiganders take for granted due to its abundance. 
  • Promote urban development, but maintain housing affordability to protect residents from gentrification. 
  • Protect the Great Lakes from oil companies and support litigation to shutdown the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline -- a process Whitner said would require time. 

Petzold was happy with the turnout and quality of the questions. 

“She asked for input from the people,” he said. “She really answered questions not in the sense that she knew all the answers but rather as a public servant hearing what the people want.”