The Flint water crisis will be a hot-button campaign issue, as will abortion rights, equal pay for women and the economy – but President Trump’s immigration policy is already a flashpoint in the race to be Michigan’s next governor.
It’s a race without an incumbent. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will be term-limited out of office.
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer beat everyone across the starting line by announcing her candidacy for 2018 on Jan. 3.
Three weeks into her campaign, the former state Senate minority leader challenged presumed GOP candidate Bill Schuette with an online petition drive to use his power as Michigan attorney general to file suit against the Trump administration’s immigration order affecting seven Muslim-majority nations.
“This ban not only hurts our state, it violates our shared American values of religious freedom and equality. It violates basic human decency to turn our backs on people, especially children, who are fleeing terror, and it should be condemned,” read Whitmer’s petition.
Schuette not only refused, but he issued a statement backing the Trump policy.
“The U.S. must have an immigration policy that provides safety and security for our nation, a policy that is hopeful to all new Americans and which discriminates against no one,” Schuette tweeted. “@POTUS Trump’s Executive Order is not a ban on Muslims, he is placing the security of Americans first.”
After the courts stopped the Trump executive order, Whitmer piled on.
“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette supported President Trump’s illegal ban. The judges unanimously repudiated not only the Trump administration, but all who agreed. #NoBanNoWall,” Whitmer posted on her Facebook page.
All of this before Schuette has even entered the race.
But Michigan’s political analysts and reporters would be shocked if he doesn’t run. Whitmer has obviously anointed him as either her most potent challenger or the Republican she would most like to stop from entering the race.
Whitmer hasn’t only taken aim at the Trump administration for its immigration policy. She has also criticized all of the Trump cabinet nominees.
For instance, Whitmer said newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price had an “alarming record when it comes to women’s healthcare.”
“In 2012, Price asked us to ‘bring him one woman’ who could not afford birth control coverage,” Whitmer said in a statement on her Facebook page. “In 2015, he opposed a law that would prevent companies from firing employees simply for using birth control or for having an abortion.”
The subjects of women’s healthcare, abortion and Planned Parenthood are all high on Whitmer’s agenda.
In a 2013 state Senate speech against a Republican bill to limit abortion insurance coverage, Whitmer revealed that she was a victim of rape.
“Over 20 years ago I was a victim of rape. And thank God it didn’t result in a pregnancy. Because I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker,” Whitmer said, as she argued against legislation that would have forced women to pay for a separate insurance rider to cover abortion.
Whitmer called Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt “dangerous” in a tweet. She joined the Twitter protest against fellow Michiganian Betsy DeVos, asking for “one more Republican senator to make the right decision and #DumpDevos.”
Bill Schuette, on the other hand, not only supported the White House ban on immigration involving seven Muslim-majority nations; he also backed the DeVos nomination.
“Secretary DeVos will be an excellent Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, fixing our schools and at the same time providing children and families choices to find the school that fits their needs,” Schuette said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
Although he was an early supporter of Jeb Bush for president, Schuette threw his support to Trump after the former Florida governor left the GOP presidential primary race.
Schuette told WLUC-TV in June 2016 that he had decided to back Trump because he didn’t want to “turn the keys to America over to Hillary Clinton.”
Schuette has voiced support for Trump’s cabinet nominations and has yet to disagree publicly with any of the White House’s actions or statements.
There is only other big GOP name that Whitmer needs to worry about: Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.
If Calley enters the race, he will bring with him the legacy, or burden, of Gov. Rick Snyder.
Whitmer must be salivating at the thought of getting a former Snyder administration official on stage to debate the Flint water crisis. But that isn’t the only problem Calley would have.
And then there is the immigration debate.
While Snyder has opened the Michigan Office for New Americans, heading by businessman Bing Goei, an Asian-American who made his fortune with a chain of florist shops on the west side of the state, he has also tacitly endorsed the Trump immigration ban.
Snyder issued a statement before Trump’s executive order on restricting refugees and immigrants from the seven nations in which he said the order “is leading to a much-needed national dialogue on immigration policy.”
So Whitmer has been using every social media tool at her disposal to attack her most likely GOP opponent, Bill Schuette, for his support of the Trump immigration executive order and Gov. Snyder for the well-known Flint water crisis.
However, Whitmer has also lashed out at the leadership and members of the Michigan Democratic Party. But she didn’t use social media for that attack.
She told Democrats face-to-face, “This party has lost its way.”
“This party has been apologetic. This party has been conciliatory,” she said in a speech to the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party on Feb. 11.
“The lesson of 2016 is that we cannot take anyone for granted,” Whitmer said. “We cannot assume that a union endorsement means every member is going to vote for us. We cannot assume that every woman is going to vote Democratic. We have to earn every one of those votes.”