DETROIT – “Michigan does not need a CEO – a Chief Executive Outsourcer,” intoned Democratic gubernatorial candidate Virg Benero at the Michigan Democratic Convention’s opening press conference Aug. 28 at Cobo Hall. Bernero’s feisty style was echoed by his running mate, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, who said to the packed room of reporters and supporters, “We will lead with Main Street in mind, not Wall Street.”
The LGBT and Allied Democratic Caucus, which met right after the opening, “is the bridge between the LGBT community and the Democratic Party,” said Phil Volk, caucus chair. “Our goal is to get the average voter aware of the facts: that we have no employment protections in most of the state, that bullying goes on without a check and that LGBT seniors are abused.”
After introducing the caucus board and committee chairs, a steady stream of candidates and surrogates addressed the caucus to ask for support and an endorsement.
Jocelyn Benson, candidate for secretary of state, said she is honored that the LGBT Caucus was the first one to endorse her. “Driver’s licenses should include accurate information, which includes the correct gender,” said Benson. “I will fight for transgendered Michiganians to have their licenses reflect their gender as they understand it.” She will face Republican nominee Ruth Johnson, who has publicly stated her opposition to changing the gender on driver’s licenses for transgender citizens.
The most moving speech came from a 16-year-old, closeted bisexual girl from Livonia who spoke on behalf of Liz Bauer, who is up for reelection to the State School Board. “I’m not out to my family or my friends at school, but Liz Bauer knows me,” the girl said. “I can talk to her. Please support her.”
John Austin, the vice president of the State Board of Education, was passionate in his support of Liz Bauer and fellow candidate Lupe Ramos-Montigny. “The LGBT caucus is the most influential caucus of the party,” said Austin. “You are the most reliable, and your issues – bullying, educational reform and tolerance – are the ones that Michigan schools need to focus on the most.”
Both Bauer and Ramos-Montigny are endorsed by the caucus.
Natalie Mosher, the only congressional candidate that attended the caucus, also gave a powerful speech. “I support the Murphy amendment to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ I support repeal of the poorly named Defense of Marriage Act, and I support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” she said. Mosher is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Thaddeus McCotter in the 11th Congressional District.
The only candidate for the Michigan Senate who attended the caucus was Pam Jackson, who is running in the 15th District against incumbent Republican Nancy Cassis. She described herself as a feisty, stealth candidate.
The only openly gay candidate to speak was Gary Post, who is running for the state House in the 47th District in Livingston County. “Is anyone willing to go to Hell with me?” he joked, referring to the town of Hell, Mich., which is in his district. Post has a long record of political activism in Michigan and later in North Carolina. He returned to Michigan five years ago and was recruited by local party leaders to run.
Three other candidates for the Michigan House spoke: Lisa Brown of the 39th District, Scott Dianda form the 110th and Hanry Yanez from the 10th.
University of Michigan Regent Paul Brown, who is up for reelection this year, spoke about how the universities need to lead on discrimination issues, especially those effecting the LGBT community.
The daughter of Alton Thomas Davis, Brianne Davis, brought some levity into the room with a funny story about what it’s like to live in a small northern town where everyone knows her father, the judge. Davis was appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to the Michigan Supreme Court two days prior to the convention, and will therefore run in November as an incumbent. “My father is fair and hard working, and he understands the issues that effect the LGBT community,” Brianne Davis said. “In a specific case that affected children of a same-sex couple, he found that both parents had parental rights and obligations. He will stand up for all of us.”
The Republican convention, held the same day in East Lansing, did not include a LGBT caucus.