Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is sworn in for a second term during the Michigan Inauguration on Jan. 1, 2023. | Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined her vision for her second term during her inaugural address Sunday, kicking off complete Democratic control of Lansing for the first time in four decades.
Whitmer promised additional details in her upcoming State of the State address and budget proposal, but called for the newly Democratic Michigan Legislature to pass “common sense” gun control reforms, repeal laws banning abortion, and tackle issues like climate change and health care.
“In November, Michiganders spoke with a clear voice,” Whitmer said. “They expect us to embody the values they live up to every day – grit and grace. They deserve practical problem solvers who get things done.”
Democrats last controlled the governor’s office and held majorities in the Michigan House and Senate in 1983.
Whitmer extended a greeting to House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Marshall) and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), urging them to “work together to move Michigan forward” with Speaker of the House Joe Tate (D-Detroit), Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and the Democratic governor.
“If we reach across the aisle, bring people together in every region, and focus on solving problems, we can make Michigan a place where all people can envision a great future, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money they have in their pocket,” Whitmer said.
Nesbitt responded in a tweet, saying “Senate Republicans hope that this term she actually follows through on her repeated promises of bipartisanship. We can start by giving EVERY Michigander relief from record inflation.”
Hall said in a statement that legislators and the governor will have “tremendous opportunities to help the people of Michigan.”
“House Republicans are ready to get to work to attract the high-paying careers of the future, make life more affordable for every Michigander, and foster safer communities for Michigan families,” Hall said, adding that Republicans will “continue working across the aisle to achieve these common-sense goals.”
But Hall also said that Republicans are prepared to “stand up for the people against” Whitmer’s agenda if they view it as extreme.
“Instead,” Hall said, “Democrats should join Republicans’ ongoing efforts to make Michigan better for everyone.”
Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids, Speaker of the House Joe Tate (D-Detroit), Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel pose for a photo during the Michigan Inauguration on Jan. 1, 2023. | Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance
Whitmer’s oath of office was administered by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kyra Harris Bolden, who became the first Black woman to serve on the court when she took her own oath of office earlier in the ceremony. Whitmer appointed Bolden to replace Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack.
Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson were also sworn in for their second terms Sunday.
“Four years ago, I stood before you all and declared that it was a new day for democracy here in the state of Michigan. And indeed, it was,” Benson said.
Benson took a victory lap for carrying out the 2020 and 2022 elections, implementing new legislative districts drawn by an independent commission, and moving branch offices to an appointment system that she says fulfills her 2018 campaign promise of a 30-minute guarantee.
But Benson warned that “we are in an era of misinformation and bad actors continue to spread lies about our democracy to advance their own agendas. They seek to silence your voices and diminish your ability to hold your government accountable.”
Benson said she would spend the next four years fighting to “re-center our political discourse on the facts and the truth.”
Whitmer wore a hot pink coat and mittens representing the state’s lower and upper peninsulas during the inaugural address.
The governor asked the audience what makes a Michigander, listing things like pointing to their hometowns on their hands, having the peninsulas and Great Lakes on their cars, clothes and jewelry, and knowing that the Lions are on their way up. (“They’ve never lost a Super Bowl,” Whitmer joked.)
“But what makes a Michigander? It’s not any of those things I just mentioned,” Whitmer said. “It’s our underdog spirit and our championship swagger. We are tough and we never shy away from hard work. Michiganders are competitive. Even if you count us out, look down on us, or fly over us, I promise you: we will defy your expectations.”
Whitmer referenced several notable figures who hail from Michigan, including “a rapper from 8 Mile who taught us to lose ourselves in the moment. Sojourner from Battle Creek, born into slavery, who fought for liberation and women’s equality. Her last name was her legacy – Truth. A genre-defining singer from Detroit who told us that we all deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. A young man from Saginaw, born without sight, whose voice lifts our souls” and “another from Iron Mountain who became one of the greatest basketball coaches to ever do it.”
But Whitmer also acknowledged the millions of people whose stories people might not be as familiar with, including “centuries of Anishinaabe, who fought to preserve their culture and defend the Great Lakes that define us” and “generations of families who migrated here” and “built the middle class and the automobile with their bare hands.”
“They saw our spectacular peninsulas as places of possibility. They came with nothing, looking for something,” Whitmer said. “That’s what Michigan is at its best: A beacon for anyone who has been counted out or left behind. The embodiment of hope, defined by hard work.”
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