At inauguration, Gov. Whitmer calls for cooperation in a time of divided government

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — In a nod to the challenges ahead, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for compromise and cooperation among Michigan officials minutes after becoming the state’s 49th governor and the leader of a divided government.

“We might live in divisive times, but Michigan’s problems are not partisan,” the East Lansing Democrat said from the Capitol steps Tuesday, before twice repeating: “None of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s economic future because we won’t compromise with one another.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer makes remarks to the crowd after taking her oath of office on the steps of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday.

The former Senate minority leader promised to be “a governor for everyone” just before noon New Year’s Day as the temperature hovered in the low 30s and a crowd of more than a thousand people gathered to listen.

Her call for cooperation during her inaugural address was echoed by references to the 1957 completion of the Mackinac Bridge, which Whitmer touted as an example of successful bipartisan collaboration in a time of divided government and a symbol of the bridges needed to span partisan and ideological differences in the state.

Whitmer’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist, echoed Whitmer’s comments and acknowledged the sacrifices and purpose that brought both to the Capitol steps Tuesday.

Gretchen Whitmer in Lansing on Tuesday for her inauguration.

“We do not ascend these steps alone” but are lifted there by grandparents, ancestors and immigrants who planted the seeds for the future, Gilchrist said.

The Democratic governor and lieutenant governor and the newly elected Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will work with a Republican-majority Legislature in the coming years.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield have promised to work with the Democratic officials and were in attendance at the inauguration Tuesday.

“We both have reasonable reasons to try to find things we can agree on and try to get some early successes for the state of Michigan,” Shirkey told The Detroit News recently.

The ceremony Tuesday also included the administering of the oath of office for those elected to statewide education seats, the Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court.

Gov/ Gretchen Whitmer takes the oath of office in front of a crowd on the steps of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday.

Nessel, the state’s first openly gay attorney general, was sworn in with her wife and two sons present at the ceremony. Nessel’s oath of office was administered by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional in a landmark case involving Nessel's clients, lesbian couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse.  

In her remarks Tuesday, Nessel said she would work to bring justice to as many people as possible.

"I wanted the people of Michigan to feel that they really had a government that cared about them again," Nessel said. "We are all Michiganders, and we are all entitled to equal protection under the law.”

Benson, a former Wayne State University law school dean and author of a book regarding the duties of the Secretary of State, echoed her campaign promise to bring Michigan from “worst to first” in transparency and elections security.

“It is a new day for democracy here in the state of Michigan,” Benson said.

Lauren Sargent arrived at the inauguration hours prior to the start of the ceremony to witness the “turning over of a new leaf.”

Her first time at an inauguration, the Ann Arbor woman said she hoped both Whitmer and Nessel would shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline shortly after taking the reins of state government.

“I hope to see a return to the days when we had an attorney general that’s truly for the people,” Sargent said.

Whitmer triumphed over her Republican opponent Attorney General Bill Schuette by 10 percentage points in November after a campaign in which she promised to “fix the damn the roads.”

The “Building Bridges Together” inauguration ceremony was followed by an inaugural ball Tuesday night in Detroit. Free public events, paid for by donors under the umbrella title Whitmer Winter Warmups, are set for Jan. 12 in Detroit and Flint, Jan. 26 in Grand Rapids and Feb. 16 in Marquette.

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