Nessel on AG post: 'We made our dream a reality'
Democrat Dana Nessel took to Twitter on Wednesday to acknowledge her win over her opponent, Republican Tom Leonard, in the tight race to replace term-limited Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
"Tom, you ran a great race," Nessel said. "It has been an honor to run against you these last 4 months. To all of my supporters, thank you. We made our dream a reality. I’m ready to do the work."
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Nessel, a Plymouth Township attorney, had 48.5 percent of the vote. Leonard, the House speaker from DeWitt, conceded the race Wednesday morning. He had 46.8 percent of the vote.
“Last night’s results may be personally disappointing, but it is time to move forward and allow Michigan’s next attorney general to begin transitioning into this important role," Leonard said in a statement. "Dana Nessel ran a smart campaign and earned the voters’ trust. I have offered her any help she may need getting acclimated to the department and beginning her term."
Her win buoyed LGBTQ supporters and gay-rights activists.
“Dana has shattered a lavender ceiling in Michigan and achieved what only one other openly LGBTQ person ever has — being elected attorney general of her state,” said Mayor Annise Parker, president & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Dana’s struggles and experiences as an openly lesbian woman has forged in her a commitment to fairness and equal rights — and her tremendous passion and energy for uplifting those values will be invaluable in the Attorney General’s Office.
"In electing Dana, Michigan voters forever changed what is possible for an openly LGBTQ candidate in the state and opened the door to more LGBTQ leaders who want to run and make change.”
Leonard and Nessel had tussled over issues from the future of Enbridge's Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac to the potential enforcement of state abortion laws.
The Republican had promised to be a “rule of law” attorney general who would tackle mental health issues, elder abuse and government transparency complaints, while Nessel pledged to address water contamination issues and protect affordable health care.
Nessel led in all three Detroit News-WDIV polls of 600 likely Michigan voters.
Republican and Democrat attorney general associations poured ads into the state while the candidates themselves broke fundraising records. Leonard raised more than $1.4 million through mid-September and had more than $1 million on hand. Nessel had raised more than $1 million in that same time period and had more than a half-million on hand.
Nessel had union and environmentalist group backing as well as endorsements from the Michigan Association of Police Organizations and the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union. Leonard touts endorsements from the Police Officers Association of Michigan, the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, and the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs.
A former Wayne County prosecutor and defense lawyer, Nessel is best known for her work to defend lesbian couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, whose case helped to topple the gay marriage ban in Michigan and other states.
Nessel spent 11 years in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office until she moved into private practice, where she handled indigent defense, probate law and cases related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgend—er rights.
She helped start the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a task force that specializes in and trains other prosecutors in addressing hate crimes against the community.
Trevor Thomas, Equality Michigan Action Network board chair, said: “It’s momentous to have elected our first-ever out statewide official in Dana Nessel. The fact that she’s been at the vanguard of our fight for civil rights for years is even more so. It’s been decades since Michigan’s LGBT community had an advocate in the attorney general’s office. To have not just an ally, but a fighter who truly gets it, who lives it, means so much.”
Nessel said she would focus on consumer protections, including going after drug companies that inflate pharmaceutical prices and defense of the Affordable Care Act and the “mandate that health insurance companies must insure people with pre-existing conditions.”
She also plans to ensure Michigan residents enjoy clean and safe drinking water throughout the state. That effort would include the aggressively suing companies contributing to PFAS chemical contamination and a lawsuit to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac for supposedly violating an easement with the state.
Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.