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: