Michigan Democrats choose first woman and black man to lead legislature

Michigan Democrats made history again Thursday with elected officials they chose to lead the State Senate and Housefirst major measures by lawmakers after the takeover of the two legislative chambers in the midterm election.

Senate Democrats choose State Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, as the new Senate Majority Leader. Brinks is the first woman in Michigan history to hold a leadership position. Later Wednesday, House Democrats selected State Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, as the new Speaker of the House. He will be the first black man to lead the chamber when he officially takes office in January.

“It’s historic. It’s a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility,” Tate said, after becoming the president-elect following a nearly three-hour meeting of House Democrats.

“I’m going to bring my experiences…this house is for the whole state of Michigan, so make sure we’re doing things that are going to improve people’s quality of life.”

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After:Michigan Democrats take control of State House and Senate in historic power shift

Supported by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, supporters of an amendment to include abortion rights in the state Constitution and fairer legislative districts, Democrats this week won narrow majorities in the House and Senate .

Whitmer congratulated the two new leaders Thursday night, noting what their elections mean in the history of the state.

“I’m so excited to work with my friends Majority Leader Brinks and President Tate to get things done on the core issues,” Whitmer said.

State Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, speaks to the media Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Michigan State Capitol after being chosen to be the next House Speaker.  He will assume the role when the new legislative session begins next year.

“Both incredible leaders will go down in history – Senate Majority Leader Brinks as the first woman to hold this office and President Tate as the first Black Michigander to be elected president in our 185 years of office. story. And both are committed to putting families first and moving Michigan forward. I know they will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done.”

It’s the first time Democrats have controlled the governor’s mansion and both legislative houses since 1983, a power shift leaders aren’t planning to relinquish anytime soon.

“We’re going to pull our lists together, we’re going to compare, we’re going to talk to the House and we’re going to talk to the governor’s office, and we’re going to put together a list of things that put people in Michigan first,” Brinks said.

“I feel very ready to lead, having watched a number of leaders in the past – both minority and majority – and I’m ready to put the full power of that experience to work for the people of Michigan.”

The Democratic power shift puts an unprecedented number of women in power. In addition to Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel won re-election. In the House, 33 of the 56 members of the Democratic caucus are women. In the Senate, 12 of 20 Democrats are women, as Brinks noted in a press release announcing her leadership victory.

“Men have been in charge for hundreds of years and it’s high time women had a seat at the table, and in Michigan we have plenty of seats at the table,” Brinks said.

Brinks, 54, leads the 20-member Senate Democratic caucus after defeating his GOP challenger, state Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, midterm. This will be his second term in the state Senate, following three terms in the State House. When she won her House seat in 2012, she was the first woman to represent Grand Rapids in the state legislature in nearly a century.

Prior to serving in the Legislative Assembly, she worked for a non-profit employee support organization. She holds a BA in Spanish from Calvin College. Originally from Mt. Vernon, Washington, she is married and has three daughters.

“I’m a very collaborative leader. I love having a lot of high quality voices in the room, I love listening to them, I want to hear what people have to say. And I really appreciate all of the experiences of our caucus members bring,” Brinks said.

“I’m still getting to know some of our newest members and the depth of their resumes, but I’m confident we have a fantastic group.”

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Tate, 41, is entering his third term at the State House. Before entering politics, he played on the Michigan State University football team and played the sport briefly in Europe. After his football career ended, he joined the U.S. Marines, deploying twice to Afghanistan, according to his legislative biography.

“I grew up in team environments in athletics and in the military, and that will be my approach. We’re going to look at building consensus from the start, but we’re also going to make sure we marry and bring and understanding the values ​​of our constituents around the table,” he said.

He will be the Detroit House’s first speaker since Curtis Hertel, Sr. led the chamber in 1997 and 1998. Current House Democratic leader Donna Lasinski, a Scio Township Democrat who is leaving due to the term limits, gushed about Tate and what his rise means. for the state.

“For more than 200 years, the halls of the Speakers’ Library have been lined with photos of white men. For us to take the majority, to represent Michigan State, we must look like Michigan’s diversity,” a- she said Thursday night.

“And when you look at Joe’s incredible journey…he’s a man who always puts others first and a deep believer in democratic values.”

It’s a joyful day for outgoing Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and longtime lawmaker colleague Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing. The pair spoke about their efforts over the years to build Democratic strength in the upper house and how they believe the party is poised to hold on to power by acting on policies that help people .

“I think (Brinks) is going to do a good job. I think she’s decisive, she’s a person who wants to get everyone’s opinion and make sure everyone’s voice is heard. She knows that she has a diverse caucus and she’s going to make sure everyone has their priorities met at the end of term to be to the best of their abilities,” Ananich said.

Senate Republicans have chosen Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, as Minority Leader. A former lottery commissioner under the then government. Rick Snyder, Nesbitt hailed the strength of his GOP caucus.

“I look forward to serving with all of them as we continue to try to uphold our common sense conservative values ​​of empowering individuals over the state, helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive and grow here. in the state and trying to stop the most excessive left-wing activism that the governor can try to push and the new Democratic majority can try to push,” he said.

In the House, Republicans chose State Rep. Matt Hall, R-Comstock Township, as Minority Leader. The third-term lawmaker led a powerful tax committee last session and headed the oversight committee; his hearings after the 2020 presidential election drew national attention after testimony from Trump-affiliated attorney Rudy Giuliani and others.

“We stand ready to work with the governor when she moves in the right direction, but we will fight like mad when she pursues policies that threaten Michigan families or our local economy,” Hall said in a statement.

The new legislative session begins in mid-January.

Contact Dave Boucher: [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.