Michigan Democrats on Sunday made official their slate of top candidates for the fall election, nominating Dana Nessel for attorney general and Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state in bids to retake state offices the party has not led in years.
The moves at a convention in East Lansing were a formality after Democratic delegates endorsed the candidates in the spring. Also backed then — and again Sunday — were state Supreme Court candidates Sam Bagenstos and Megan Cavanagh, who will try to upend GOP-supported Justices Elizabeth Clement and Kurtis Wilder in November.
Except for gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer's running mate, Garlin Gilchrist II, the Democratic ticket features white female candidates for the top offices of U.S. Senate, governor, attorney general and secretary of state.
"Next year, we won't need a women's march on Lansing because there will already be so many women in public office," said Nessel, a former prosecutor in Wayne County whose firm focuses on criminal defense and other areas of law. If elected, she would be Michigan's first openly gay statewide officeholder.
The 49-year-old Nessel, who won a tough contest in April, criticized her Republican opponent Tom Leonard, the state House speaker who after securing his party's nod on Saturday called her "fringe."
"I will use the office of Michigan attorney general to fight against public corruption," she said. "Tom Leonard, you cannot be anti-public corruption and pro-Donald Trump at the same time. Those things are mutually exclusive."
Benson, 40, was the Democratic nominee for secretary of state 2010, when she lost to Republican Ruth Johnson in what was a big year for the GOP two years after the election of Barack Obama as president. Democrats hope 2018, the first midterm of Trump's presidency, leads to a "blue wave."
Benson runs a sports-based nonprofit dedicated to improving race relations and formerly was dean of Wayne State University's law school.
"I'm ready to ensure that our right to vote is protected for every eligible voter in this state," Benson said. "I'm ready to take this state from worst to first in transparency and ethics. And I will be ready, on day one, to ensure our democracy is secure and we can trust the results of the election."
Democrats last held the governorship in 2010, the attorney general's office in 2002 and the secretary of state's office in 1994. But Gov. Rick Snyder is term-limited, as are Attorney General Bill Schuette — Whitmer's opponent for governor — and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.