HUNTINGTON WOODS – “Involved and Innovative.” That’s what it says under Democrat Ellen Cogen Lipton’s name on the yard signs that dot lawns in Michigan’s 27th District prior to the Aug. 5 primary election.
For many politicians, “Involved and Innovative” would just be yet another platitude. But for Ellen Cogen Lipton, a former patent attorney with a background in chemistry and biochemistry, it’s an apt description.
Cogen Lipton, who lives in Huntington Woods with her husband and children, believes that the job of a state representative is “reaching out to people, listening, being accessible, and acting as the person who helps put the pieces together.”
Chances are good that if you live in the 27th District – that is, if you live in Hazel Park, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Berkley and most of Oak Park – you’ve heard the name Ellen Cogen Lipton. In fact, it’s likely you’ve met her. Cogen Lipton and a few supporters have personally gone door to door speaking to the district’s over 4,000 Democratic households. Twice.
“What I’ve done in this campaign is I’ve been very adamant about meeting as many people as possible,” Cogen Lipton said. “So I decided I wanted to knock on voters’ doors not once, but twice.”
By mid-May, she’d knocked the entire district. And she’s finishing up round two.
“You learn so much from listening,” she said. “I wanted to hear from people at their doors what their concerns were. I had an inkling that the economy and jobs were going to be important, but I felt that it wasn’t up to me to decide what the issues where.”
You learn a lot going door to door in a community, she said. “To me, you can’t really know or understand a community until you actually walk in their shoes, at their doors, seeing their street,” she said. “You really get a sense of the community and how people live.”
For Cogen Lipton, that community includes LGBT constituents. Cogen Lipton, who supports the right of same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, has been endorsed by Triangle Pride-PAC and LGBT community leaders like Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey, Oakland County Commissioner David Coulter and Oak Park-Huntington Woods Democratic Club Chair Tom Zerafa.
“Ellen Cogen Lipton is one of several great candidates in the Democratic Primary in HD 27. Ellen has proven to be the most viable and we are certain she will be a champion for our issues,” said Sean Kosofsky, a Pride PAC elections committee member. “She is a committed progressive and a fundraising powerhouse. Being able to raise lots of money could end her up in leadership, and possibly speaker. That is really important for LGBT people since her district has one of the strongest concentrations of people from our community. Ellen is bright, personable and amazing.”
“Ellen is making grass-roots connections with members of the GLBT constituency that live in my district and will continue to be a voice for fairness and civil rights in the treatment of ALL those that live in the 27th, said Zerafa. “Ellen will work with members of both parties to strengthen and promote legal protections for GLBT youth, couples, and all who identify as such.”
“Ellen Cogen Lipton is a phenomenal candidate with the talent, intelligence and vision this district needs in Lansing,” said Coulter.
Cogen Lipton also had a booth at Motor City Pride and met many LGBT constituents and listened to their concerns.
“The biggest issue that came up, and its been brought up in other town hall meetings that I’ve had, was the issue of discrimination in this state, that we’re one of the few states that does not protect people based on sexual identity,” she said. “I feel very strongly that that’s something that we need to address in this state”
The other big issue that came up as the issue of same-sex couples adopting, “particularly among young people.”
One young man told her that he worries that if something happened to his birth mother that his non-biological mother would not be allowed to continue raising him.
“That piece of paper (an adoption certificate) is the one thing that would stand between him and complete emotion tragedy if, God forbid, something did happen to his birth mother,” said Cogen Lipton. “The state might regard him as an orphan or send him to a relative he is not emotionally connected to.”
Cogen Lipton is frustrated by the political divisiveness over these issues in the legislature.
The solution, she said, is to educate young people not to fear the differences among people.
“I really think that the younger you can expose a child to diversity and tolerance the better,” she said. “We always talk about children being color blind (but) as they get older and into the system, so to speak, they start solidifying. I feel like the younger we can teach kids in school that maybe we’ll have a hope of someday eradicating discrimination based on really whatever criteria we want to use.”