After being elected the 49th Governor of Michigan Nov. 6, Gretchen Whitmer addressed the bathed-in-blue crowd at the statewide Democratic watch party at the Motor City Casino in downtown Detroit.
“Wow, I guess we’re going to have to fix the damn roads now,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer repeated her plans for thorough repairs to Michigan roads, echoing her previous campaign promise.
Lingering on the topic of transportation, Whitmer discussed the symbolism of using the Mackinac Bridge in her campaign, citing the adversity its construction overcame. Whitmer said there were doubts a five-mile suspension bridge connecting the peninsulas could even be built, but public interest won out against partisan division.
“At a time where we see too many people who want to divide us through building walls, I think we in Michigan need to get back to building bridges,” Whitmer said. “Michigan voters made a choice in this election. The people have spoken and we chose hope and inclusion. We chose respect and collaboration and we chose bridges over walls.”
With all the challenges Michigan faces in the upcoming months, Whitmer said individuals from both sides of the aisle need to work in harmony to improve the lives of Michiganders immediately.
Whitmer will be the second female governor in the state, after Jennifer Granholm served from 2003 to 2011. Whitmer’s running mate, Garlin Gilchrist II, is also navigating new territory as Michigan’s first black lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, at the statewide Republican watch party at the Lansing Center, the mood was hopeful until results began to trickle in. Officials and guests were defiant when asked about the Associated Press calling the race for Whitmer by 10 p.m., but once Attorney General Schuette came in the room, the message was clear.
He spoke for several minutes, thanking his campaign staff – many of them by name – and his family. One of his sisters, coincidentally, is named Gretchen.
“The real Gretchen in my life, Gretchen Schuette, is here tonight,” he joked.
Schuette was conciliatory and appreciative of the guests at the party.
“I’m so proud to be in your company,” Schuette said. “My mom used to say you’re judged by the company you keep, and you’re judged by those who are your friends. I have so many wonderful friends in this room, and I’m so proud to be in your company. How you have provided friendship, encouragement, love, and a pat on the back. I thank you very, very much. God bless all of you, God bless Michigan.”
Schuette also noted in his concession speech he had spoken with Governor-elect Whitmer.
“I expressed my very best wishes for her every success in her responsibilities,” he said. “I just want you to know I’m so honored to be the Republican nominee for governor, and I ran (so) Michigan (would) be the leader, the leading state in our nation. Nothing less will do for Michigan, and that’s why I ran.”
Running mates speak
Lisa Posthumus Lyons, an MSU graduate and former member of the Michigan House of Representatives, served as Schuette’s running mate. She spoke after him, with an introduction from Schuette.
“(These elections) are about the people who did the work to move Michigan forward, which is why tonight hurts a little bit,” Lyons said. “The disappointment that we may be feeling is real, but the fight for the future of Michigan doesn’t become determined by one election. Leaders come and go, politicians win and lose, but the perseverance of the people of Michigan, that remains a constant.”
Scott Hagerstrom, the director of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Michigan, said he was disappointed but not surprised with the results of the gubernatorial election, due to past history.
“Here in Michigan, it all comes down to candidates and races and how they run their race. It’s normal for Michigan to change parties,” he said. “Every time there’s an open seat, it switches parties. In a lot of ways, it’s a big turn to the left. Our primary concern is that we grow the economy and grow jobs.”
In Detroit, Gilchrist introduced Whitmer, but not before thanking his wife for taking care of him through the campaign. He also thanked Michigan voters and those who worked on the campaign.
The journey to office was long, Gilchrist said. His personal path started because he was inspired by his community’s leaders on the east side of Detroit.
“We stand on this stage upon the shoulders of giants who had a vision that went beyond generations and it’s our generation’s responsibility to live up to that vision by having our imaginations exceeded our expectations,” Gilchrist said. “We have but one future. We are but one Michigan and when we all work together hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder, we can accomplish any and everything we can imagine.”