In January 2019, Gretchen Whitmer was sworn in as Michigan’s 49th governor, running to victory on sweeping campaign promises punctuated by vowing to “fix the damn roads.” Whitmer pledged to exponentially improve the state’s infrastructure, combat urban economic and poverty issues, advance schools and education for PreK to 12th-grade students, create more in-demand training and jobs for Michiganders, eradicate threats to clean drinking water across all communities, make it easier for residents to afford college, and more.
As Whitmer seeks a second term as Michigan’s top elected official, the Michigan Chronicle believes that her key campaign vows have been “promises made, promises kept.”
Since the governor took office more than three years ago, the state has repaired, rebuilt, or replaced 13,198 lane miles of roads and 903 bridges, supporting approximately 82,000 jobs under the governor’s Rebuilding Michigan Program. In 2021 alone, under this administration’s watch, 220,000 jobs were added in various industries. Thousands of the jobs were in Detroit after Stellantis build the first new auto plant in the Motor City in 30 years. The Whitmer- Gilchrist administration has also made the largest investment in K – 12 schools in Michigan’s history three years in a row – without raising taxes.
When Whitmer and Gilchrist were elected and sworn in, little did they know that 14 months later, they would provide unprecedented leadership to navigate Michiganders through the state’s most economically devastating and deadliest crisis – ever: the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic wreaked havoc, causing accelerated health and healthcare challenges not seen in Michigan – and the rest of America – since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. With a population of 1.4 million African Americans now living in Michigan – more than half residing in Detroit and the ten counties that comprise Southeast Michigan – the pandemic fully exposed the shocking and unconscionable healthcare disparities in Black communities.
Just over a month after the March 10, 2020 confirmation of the first two Michigan residents testing positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the devastation it was having on Black people, the governor created and signed Executive Order No. 2020-55, creating the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities – the first of its type anywhere in the United States. The Task Force was set up as an advisory body of stakeholders to investigate, address, recommend, and act on how best to eradicate racial disparities caused by COVID-19 in African American and other underserved communities in Detroit and across Michigan. Whitmer chose Gilchrist – Michigan’s first Black Lt. Governor – to chair the pioneering task force, which continues to function.
During a recent virtual meeting with the Michigan Chronicle Editorial Board, the governor called Gilchrist “brilliant, compassionate, a phenomenal complement who brings different sets of strengths to the administration.” Whitmer further said that she trusts Gilchrist with her life and calls him the “future of the Democratic Party.”
As the Aug. 2 primary election approaches, Whitmer is the only Democrat running for governor. Nevertheless, six Republicans are in the primary, including James Craig, the former Detroit Police Chief running as a write-in candidate; Tudor Dixon, a businesswoman and television news anchor; Ryan Kelly, a real estate firm owner and member of the Allendale Township Planning Commission; Ralph Rebandt, a pastor in Farmington Hills and chaplain for several police associations in Southeast Michigan; Kevin Rinke, who helped grow his family-owned Rinke Automotive Group; and Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor and the co-founder of Stand Up for Michigan. The Republican winner in the primary will face Gov. Whitmer in November.
The Chronicle sees Whitmer as tested, tough, and resilient when making executive decisions about the wellbeing of people. She has proven time and time again, especially doing this pandemic, that she is not afraid to make decisions, even if unpopular with much of the population.
While the governor is a leader for all, she recognizes and is making significant strides to close racial gaps of inequity that have affected underserved populations in Michigan, especially African Americans, for multiple decades.
The Chronicle applause the governor’s decision to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC). The Council is an advisory unit comprised of forward-thinkers charged with identifying, developing, reviewing, and recommending policies and actions to the governor and other stake-holding organizations about removing racial barriers in Black communities in such areas as education, community safety, health, and business leadership. Overall, the Whitmer-Gilchrist team continues to tackle systemic and structural racism and inequity across broad sectors.
In addition, the governor recently laid out her $2.1 billion proposal to grow Michigan’s middle class, support small businesses, and invest in communities. She has also signed an executive directive to increase state procurement and contracts with small and geographically disadvantaged businesses.
And after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade landmark decision, the governor is fighting to ensure that Michigan remains a state where women have freedom and control over their own bodies. Yet, Michigan is one of the states with pre-existing law that criminalizes an abortion as a felony, a law that dates back to 1931. On June 24, 2022, Whitmer filed a motion urging the Michigan Supreme Court to consider her lawsuit filed in April immediately. The April lawsuit and the use of the governor’s executive authority are aimed at taking critical steps to protect a woman’s right to have an abortion in Michigan legally. The governor advocates that under Michigan Law, access to an abortion is not only legal but constitutionally protected. However, Whitmer told the Michigan Chronicle Editorial Board that she has instructed her administration to begin working with Canada to set up clinics at Michigan border crossings in case the 1931 felony abortion law goes into effect.
Despite the progress made under Whitmer, there is more work to be done across all aspects of life in Michigan, and no one knows this better than the governor. The Michigan Chronicle believes that the Whitmer-led administration will continue to render bold, decisive, and unflappable leadership to reach tangible and positive results for the betterment, equality, and equity for all people, communities, cities, infrastructure, public safety, healthcare entities, educational institutions, employment and economic sectors inclusive of small and minority-owned businesses, and more.
The Whitmer-Gilchrist ticket has earned the right to a second term to lead Michigan into a new era of prosperity by continuing to create and implement policies, programs, and other entities that benefit the state, and its residents, most.