Victory Fund Endorses Attorney General Candidate Dana Nessel

Eve Kucharski
By | 2018-03-07T16:35:38+00:00 March 7th, 2018|Michigan, News|

Dana Nessel is not afraid of confrontation or controversy. The lawyer of nearly 25 years is perhaps best known for her 2012 defense against Michigan’s same-sex adoption laws, when she represented April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse in their efforts to mutually adopt each of their five children. This case was instrumental in the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, she has announced her candidacy for Michigan attorney general, and has earned an endorsement from Victory Fund.
“We politically, agnostically endorse candidates from all political parties and we ask that they be openly GLBT, that they commit to fighting anti-LGBT legislation and do their best to promote our issues. And we ask that they believe in the right to privacy,” Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker. “Those are our three issues, and Dana fits the bill. The next hurdle they have to get over is, ‘Are they viable candidates for the possibility for renewal?’ And we think she can absolutely do that.”
Parker herself was the first openly gay mayor of Houston, and served in the role for six years. When asked why Victory Fund so selectively chooses candidates to endorse, Parker said that fostering positive visibility of LGBTQ people in politics is a must.
“There’s no question that we have wonderful allies and people who care about our issues who represent us well, but there’s a qualitative difference when we’re able to be in the room and we’re able to advocate for ourselves,” Parker said. “And, when we are in the room and can advocate for ourselves, we also serve as role models and examples and we, just by our daily presence (when) people get to know us, change hearts and minds.”
Parker then added that an LGBTQ presence also makes it more difficult for the prejudiced to pass legislation.
“When we’re in the room – particularly in legislative bodies we’ve seen this over and over again – it’s very hard for a group of legislators to face a colleague eye-to-eye on the floor of the House, or on the floor of the Senate and say, ‘I want to discriminate against you,'” Parker said. “So, our presence changes things in many ways.”
Undoubtedly, Nessel has a vast amount of experience; in fact, if elected, she would be among the most qualified Michigan attorney general candidates to ever hold the office. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School, Nessel has been putting her law degree to use. First, as an assistant prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office where she worked for over a decade handling a variety of cases. Then Nessel moved on to her own, Detroit-based legal firm, Nessel & Kessel Law, founded in 2005.
Parker said that Nessel’s prosecutorial experience was one of the driving factors behind her endorsement.
“To have an Attorney General who has prosecutorial experience but also experience in the private practice, really in the trenches on the criminal side – violent crime, child abuse, and that sort of thing – that is excellent training for being a state attorney general. But also, having the experience of the private side, I think, is a plus,” Parker said. “On paper, her resume is top notch, and she would not be the only LGBT attorney general.”
As Nessel’s track record has shown, she is unafraid to take on large tasks and do so successfully. However, her bluntness and and drive has sometimes gotten her into trouble, like when she ran a political advertisement that asked viewers, “Who can you trust not to show you their penis in a professional setting? Is it the candidate who doesn’t have a penis? I’d say so.” Although the ad received much national attention, it struck some as insensitive.
Nessel was also heavily criticized when she pushed a ballot initiative forward that was intended to update the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act — it prohibits discriminatory practices, policies and customs based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight and familial or marital status — to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. The criticism also came in large part from activists in the LGBTQ community who were worried that putting their civil rights to a vote might endanger them, or result in the loss of their existing rights. Eventually, Nessel did not move forward with her initiative.
Parker said that criticism or not, Nessel is still a better candidate for Attorney General than the others running.
“When you’ve been in office for 18 years, I know there were people that disagreed with things that I did, the question is, ‘Does she meet our criteria, and – not that everyone agrees with everything that she does or says – is she a good advocate for our community, and will she represent us if given the opportunity to serve? And it’s easy to be a candidate when you’re a blank slate. When you’re someone who has a legislative track record or a record in public office, you have to live with that record,” Parker said. “The people who want to criticize her, they’re certainly welcome to do that, I won’t say that she’s a perfect candidate, but she’s an advocate for our issues and has stood up consistently. There’s no question that she is better for us than Patrick Miles.”
Parker added that a high-profile race like Nessel’s is not only a boon for Victory Fund, but in terms of national visibility for the LGBTQ community. And that, she said, is most important.
“We have more candidates than we’ve ever had in our 27-year history. We have three candidates for governor right now, we have two candidates for the U.S. Senate and we have a number of statewide candidates: secretary of state, supreme court justice, attorney general,” Parker said. “And so, it’s exciting to see our candidates get to move up the political ladder, but for organizations like Victory, it means the work gets harder (laughs) as the races get bigger. This is a big race. This is one where truly the primary is going to be tough for her.”
In order to see Nessel on the ballot in the upcoming election, interested individuals should register with the Michigan Democratic Party by March 15. More information can be found online at michigandems.com.
In Michigan, the Victory Fund has also endorsed Rep. Jon Hoadley in his race for election to District 60, and State Rep. Jeremy Moss in his race for State Senate, District 11.

About the Author:

Eve Kucharski
Writing became my life when I enrolled at Michigan State University's journalism program. In May 2017, I earned my bachelor's degree in journalism with a concentration in electronic news media. I am thrilled to be working as an editorial assistant at Between The Lines.