On July 18th, we celebrate MI List’s 15th anniversary and the vital progress we’ve made in supporting and electing Democratic, pro-choice candidates in Michigan. To understand how far we’ve come, however, we need to revisit the past. We need to understand that MI List is a strategic protest against the status quo that dominated Michigan politics for decades: an environment where women’s voices in particular were stifled, and the women themselves marginalized by underrepresentation, sexual harassment, lack of opportunity, and unequal pay. MI List wasn’t a dream, it was a necessity—an effort to make democracy work for all of us.
Amid many constraints, women like former State Senator Lana Pollack and MI List co-founder Barbara Fuller mobilized to create space for women in the Michigan legislature and then to fill those very spaces with pro-choice, progressive candidates. Lana Pollack was the only Democratic woman in the Michigan State Senate for two of her three terms, and in 1985, Barbara Fuller was one of her volunteer interns. Despite the passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973 and other important social changes, the women saw a lack of pro-choice, pro-fairness, and pro-women legislators on both sides of the aisle—and they knew that greater female representation was the only remedy.
Pollack, Fuller, and others spent years informally mentoring and empowering women interested in politics, but in 2004, Fuller, Nell Dority, and Tina Granzo took their advocacy to the next level and founded MI List. The turning point, notes Fuller, was in late 2003: “I remember then-President Bush sitting at a table and grinning while proudly signing a ban on a late term abortion procedure, before a backdrop of old, white congressmen. This was our leadership and had been for so long. I knew nothing would change until more women were represented in every office and campaign, from the local to the federal level.”
From inception, MI List has been strategic about selecting and preparing candidates to compete in important elections. The organization guides candidates every step of the way, from educating them about what is involved in running for office, to assessing the viability of Democratic contenders in various districts and collaborating with key resources and caucuses. This approach, together with the dedication of MI List’s supporters, has achieved a 67% win rate for endorsed candidates.
Though 2018 saw pro-choice, Democratic women take the Governor’s seat, Secretary of State, and Attorney General’s office in addition to flipping seats in the Michigan House, MI List’s mission is more important than ever. Attacks on women’s rights and healthcare continue nationwide, and are gaining steam in Michigan. Women still hold just 36% of seats in the state Legislature, despite comprising more than 50% of the population. And women still struggle with discrimination, lack of affordable childcare, unequal pay, and other issues in our state and country. It’s clear that our work is never truly done, and that these battles must be fought and won over and over again. After 15 years, MI List is better prepared than ever to pave the way for Democratic women leaders to win up and down the ballot.
Source for legislature composition:
If there’s one thing we’re all proud of in America, it’s our freedom. But what is freedom at its most basic level? The opportunity to choose the direction of our own lives. For America’s founders, the push for freedom began with independence from state-sponsored religion. However, our pursuit of freedom throughout America’s history has led to more choices, diversity, and progress than our founders could have ever imagined..
Decade after decade, women fought to obtain the most basic rights: the right to vote and have a say in their country’s leadership, the right to pursue the same career paths as men, and fundamentally, the right to make intimate choices about their reproductive health and bodily autonomy. People of color have faced these battles throughout history as well, and just a few generations ago, finally won the right to choose the same schools, neighborhoods, professions, and pastimes as white citizens. As recently as 2015, LGBTQ Americans were promised legal recognition of their choice of spouse throughout the nation. The chance to shape our destinies through choice is the very root of the freedom we’re so proud of.
This is why, in 2019 and beyond, the people who lead us must also understand that preserving choice is integral to maintaining freedom. In the past two years alone, we’ve seen brazen assaults on women’s reproductive choices and protections for LGBTQ people in the workplace and society. We’ve seen attempts to disenfranchise voters, especially those who are lower income or people of color. And we’ve seen these things happen even when they don’t align with
the opinions of the majority of Americans. Our politicians are charged with protecting our vital freedom of choice, and yet, when we aren’t clear about our priorities as voters, our leaders can become the very people stifling it.
We can never take for granted the importance of having choice. When choices are limited for women, LGBTQ citizens, citizens of color, or anyone else in this country, our collective freedom is at risk. At MI List, we help Democratic, pro-choice candidates get elected to offices throughout Michigan. We believe that the freedom to direct our own futures is the cornerstone of progress and of our democracy. And we believe that, with the support of voters, candidates, and legislators, we can change the world for the better.
Photo Credit: Josh Johnson for Unsplash
MI List Endorses Gretchen Whitmer for Governor of Michigan
Highlights Whitmer’s record mobilizing Michiganders for change
LANSING, MI – Today, MI List, one of Michigan’s leading organizations dedicated to electing progressive, pro-choice women up and down the ballot, endorsed former Democratic Senate Leader and Ingham County Prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer for Governor of Michigan.
MI List highlighted Whitmer’s record fighting for Michigan women as a mom, as a prosecutor, and in both chambers of the state legislature. MI List also commended Whitmer for her longtime efforts leading the fight for women’s access to reproductive health care, paid family leave, equal pay, and her work pushing back some of the most egregious anti-women bills to come out of the Capitol.
“Michigan women have always been able to turn to Gretchen to take on our toughest fights,” said MI List cofounder Barbara Ryan Fuller. “As Senate Democratic Leader and Ingham County Prosecutor, Gretchen has never backed down from demanding accountability in Lansing and fighting for us. Whether it was heading up the fight on equal pay, expanding access to health care, or mobilizing thousands of people to rally against President Trump’s attacks on women and families, Gretchen has been there. Without question, Gretchen has the record and experience to prove she is the fighter Michigan’s women need, and deserve, in the Governor’s office.”
During her first term in the state legislature, Gretchen was the caretaker for her mother, when she was dying of brain cancer – all while giving birth to and caring for her first daughter. That’s one of many reasons Whitmer fought for paid family leave so workers can take time off to care for a sick loved one or new baby and why she took a stand for equal pay for equal work.
“Lansing still isn’t listening to Michigan’s women, and we’re going to change that,” said Whitmer. “I want my daughters to grow up in a place where they’re not paid less for the same work as men, where no politician can interfere in their health care decisions, and where they have access to opportunity to build a life right here in Michigan. I’m honored to be endorsed by MI List, which has been instrumental in electing women across the state, and together we’re going to take on the status quo and mobilize Michigan for change.”
As Senate Democratic Leader, Whitmer was pivotal in brokering the deal that expanded health care to 630,000 people through Healthy Michigan, which also increased access to preventative care like cancer screenings and prenatal care to rural and low income women. And Whitmer believes that working men and women deserve a raise, which is why she helped pass a minimum wage increase with cost-of-living adjustment, all while fighting for more.
In 2013, when Republican legislators rammed a bill through the Michigan legislature that required women to buy supplemental insurance coverage in the event of an elective abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, Whitmer spoke out against the effort and shared her own story of sexual assault on the floor of the Michigan legislature.
In January, Whitmer rallied 9,000 people at the state Capitol to stand up against President Trump’s attacks on women and families, and as Ingham County Prosecutor, she established a new domestic violence unit.
Whitmer was the second candidate running for governor in the entire country to be endorsed by EMILY’s List, and they are committed to leveraging their national fundraising network to ensure that Gretchen has whatever it takes to win this race.
Whitmer is also endorsed by organizations representing more than 42,000 Michigan workers, including: the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights; the Michigan State Utility Workers Council; the Michigan Pipe Trades Association; the Michigan Joint Council of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 299.
Whitmer is also being supported by former Michigan Attorney General Frank J. Kelley, Assistant Democratic Senate Leader Steve Bieda (Warren), Democratic Senate Floor Leader Morris Hood III (Detroit), Associate President Pro Tempore Hoon-Yung Hopgood (Taylor), Assistant Democratic Senate Caucus Chair Vincent Gregory (Lathrup Village), Senate Democratic Whip Curtis Hertel (East Lansing), Senator Rebekah Warren (Ann Arbor), Democratic House Leader Sam Singh (East Lansing), Democratic House Floor Leader Christine Greig (Farmington Hills), Assistant Democratic House Whip Erika Geiss (Taylor), Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (Detroit), Representative Leslie Love (Detroit), Representative Kevin Hertel (St. Clair Shores), Representative Henry Yanez (Sterling Heights), Representative Patrick Green (Warren), Representative Pam Faris (Clio), Representative Tim Sneller (Burton), Representative Ronnie Peterson (Ypsilanti), Representative Jon Hoadley (Kalamazoo), Representative Tom Cochran (Mason), Representative Andy Schor (Lansing), Representative David LaGrand (Grand Rapids), and Representative Scott Dianda (Calumet).