Detroit — Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said Wednesday that he and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are “holding out” on Democratic presidential candidates seeking their endorsement to encourage more visits to and attention for the swing state. 

“We believe that you need to put in the work here in Michigan,” Gilchrist told The Detroit News as the second night of the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit neared an end. “They need to come and meet people where they are. They need to come and engage with different constituencies across the state.”

If and when they do endorse, Whitmer and Gilchrist will likely do it as a team. 

“We’re working together,” he said. 

Michigan has been an early focal point for many Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump and win back a state he flipped in 2016. Trump was the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988, but Democrats reasserted their statewide strength in a 2018 election Whitmer won by nearly nine percentage points. 

Whitmer and Gilchrist, who helped warm up the Fox Theatre crowd ahead of Wednesday night’s debate, have welcomed presidential candidates to Michigan and have provided them with tips for understanding local issue and connecting with local voters. 

“We provided sort of a primer on issues that are important in Michigan to give them sort of current status and updates on some things,” Gilchrist said. “And so we hope the candidates will learn from those things, and when they come back to Michigan they’ll want to engage more deeply.”

The primer was provided about two weeks ago to the campaigns of all 20 Democratic presidential candidates who came to Detroit for the debate, he said. 

Gilchrist encouraged the presidential candidates to focus on issues that Whitmer touted in her winning campaign last year, including infrastructure, clean drinking water, K-12 education spending and efforts to close the skills gap. 

CNN moderators asked a question about the Flint water crisis each night but did not spend significant time on those issues.

“I always want to hear more about those topics,” Gilchrist said. “I think the candidates are starting to understand Michigan.”

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