Same-sex case lawyer to run for Mich. attorney general
Ann Arbor — Dana Nessel, one of the lead attorneys for the two Hazel Park women who were part of the landmark lawsuit that opened the door for all same-sex couples to legally marry in the United States, announced her candidacy Tuesday for Michigan attorney general.
Nessel, flanked by her wife, Alanna Maguire, and the couple’s twin sons, is the first noted gay candidate for the post. But Nessel said while she wants the support of the LGBTQ community, she would be attorney general for all Michigan residents and seeks everyone’s support for the job.
Nessel, a Democrat, cited a long list of goals and issues she said she intends to take on if she is elected next year.
She said civil rights enforcement, consumer protection and protecting the state’s environment from polluters are among the issues she would tackle.
She also said she would file a lawsuit to shut down Enbridge Corp.’s Line 5, the 64-year-old pipeline that carries crude oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.
Nessel said she would create a hate crimes division of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and aggressively prosecute discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.
She also said she would work to include more people in the state’s ethnic intimidation act.
“You will be safe. You will be protected and hate will not win,” Nessel said Tuesday.
She said she would work to strengthen the state’s civil rights division in prosecuting discrimination in housing, voting rights and education She also wants to use anti-discrimination laws to enhance access to housing, employment and education.
Nessel said “deceitful and unethical actors” have been allowed to prey on Michigan citizens through corporate and business practices without being punished “no matter how many lives they violate or how many people they hurt.”
“The Office of the Michigan Attorney General has lost its way,” she said. “They aren’t fighting for the little guy and protecting people against bad actors.”
She said for “far too long” the attorney general’s office has been used as a “stepping stone” for those seeking the governor’s office in Michigan.
Nessel said she would create a “bad cops” division to prevent rogue officers from going from department to department in Michigan.
As a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor, Nessel was assigned to the Police Conduct Review Team, where she investigated and prosecuted fatal and nonfatal shootings of civilians by police officers.
Nessel said Michigan has more than two dozen identifiable hate groups.
“Like any state in America, Michigan is a place with significant issues of hate and discrimination against the minority populations,” said Nessel, who promised to fight “tooth and nail” against bigotry.
About 75 supporters turned out to hear Nessel announce her candidacy in Ann Arbor’s Braun Court, where she and other attorneys who fought alongside April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse for the legal right to marry celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 26, 2015.
Nessel is president of Fair Michigan Justice Project, a nonprofit organization works with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute those responsible for murders and other criminal offenses against members of the LGBTQ community.
She is a partner in the Nessel and Kessel law firm in downtown Detroit and lives in Plymouth.
In a news release, Nessel said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has endorsed her candidacy.
“I wholeheartedly support Dana Nessel’s candidacy,” Worthy is quoted in Nessel’s release. “She has the breadth of experience, knowledge, and commitment to public service, to be an excellent attorney general. As the Wayne County prosecutor, and as a trial judge before that, I know Dana to be a tenacious but fair prosecutor, a committed advocate for victims of crime, and a tireless champion for civil rights for all the people.”
Nessel is likely to face opposition for the Democratic nomination, which will be decided next year at the party’s state convention. The current officeholder, Republican Bill Schuette, is term-limited and is expected to run for governor.
Democrat Pat Miles is considering a run for attorney general.
“As the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District, I know how critical it is for the people of Michigan to have an attorney general who will fight for everyone. I encourage people to stay tuned for more news on this race in the weeks to come,” Miles said in a statement Tuesday.
Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.