On Sunday, 6700 delegates braved a winter storm to attend the Michigan Democratic Party’s endorsement meeting in Detroit. All eyes were on the race for attorney general between Dana Nessel and Pat Miles. Many called it a bellwether for the future of the Democratic Party, with old-school unions pitted against emerging influencers and identity issues front-and-center. Ultimately, the delegates chose Victory Fund-endorsee Dana Nessel, making her the first openly LGBTQ statewide nominee in Michigan’s history.
Dana Nessel is a former assistant prosecutor in Wayne County where she founded the Michigan Justice Project to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. In private practice, Nessel spearheaded DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged Michigan’s ban on same-sex adoption and helped pave the way for marriage equality nationwide.* Beyond her work for LGBTQ rights, her campaign focused on elder abuse, consumer protection, and clean water.
Pat Miles is a former U.S. attorney from Grand Rapids and positioned himself as a moderate Democrat with tough-on-crime messaging. He’s taken many anti-LGBTQ positions in the past and has connections to the notoriously anti-LGBTQ DeVos family.
Days before the convention, Miles even released a 40-page report from the Republican Attorneys General Association that outlines a plan to attack Nessel for being “soft on sex predators”. LGBTQ advocates felt this was a decades-old tactic spiritually closer to Anita Bryant than a fellow Democrat in 2018.
Labor was split and questions remain about which locals are still aligned with the Democratic Party. Miles was endorsed by the UAW** and the AFL-CIO, whereas the Michigan Education Association and Detroit’s Iron Workers local were early Nessel supporters.
Adrian Hemond, a local Democratic consultant, told The Center for Michigan: “Support from organized labor still matters on the convention floor. The UAW is the traditional powerhouse, but the Michigan Education Association has been catching up the last few cycles.”
Additional Nessel endorsements include Moms Demand Action, Young Democrats of Michigan, Michigan Women Win, and other powerful groups that helped set her over the edge in a decisive victory: Dana Nessel won 2700 to 1900 and Pat Miles conceded the race.
With devastating recent losses in the rearview mirror, Michigan’s Democratic base is fired up and hungry for a new vision. Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2012, Flint’s lead crisis was a global call to action, and Donald Trump barely took the state with 10,000 votes. Furthermore, outgoing Attorney General Bill Schuette is a candidate for governor and known for his vehemently anti-LGBTQ views, yet another variable galvanizing LGBTQ voters and allies.
While her candidacy is already historic, there will be more anti-LGBTQ dog whistles and personal attacks in the weeks ahead. Victory Fund will be on the frontlines to help make her the first openly LGBTQ statewide official in Michigan. Check back soon for updates.
* The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and was consolidated with three others in Obergefell v. Hodges.
** The UAW currently faces blowback from its members following the Fiat Chrysler scandal. Former Fiat Chrysler executive Al Iacobelli and former UAW Vice President General Holiefield cheated thousands of autoworkers out of $4.5 million in training funds. The scandal likely hurt UAW’s turnout operation for Miles.