By The Yemeni American News
States pass laws and enforce regulations that affect our lives more than any other form of government in the United States’ federal system.
In Michigan, Lansing control policing, education, roads and the criminal justice system. It sets policies that have a greater effect on us than Washington.
On November 6, the state is set to elect a new governor to succeed Rick Snyder. The outcome of the contest will help shape the future of our communities for the next four years and beyond.
The two main candidates in the race are Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette.
Whitmer is the former State Senate minority leader. Schuette has been Michigan’s attorney general for the past seven years.
The two candidates appear to be ideological opposites. Schuette is a Trump-backed stern conservative while Whitmer, who has been endorsed by former president Obama, is an unapologetic liberal.
Governors do not control immigration. But Lansing can enact policies to welcome or discourage immigrants from settling in the state.
Schuette angered Arab American and immigrant communities when he endorsed the Muslim ban that targets Yemen along with five other predominantly Muslim countries.
“The United States must have an immigration policy that provides safety and security for our nation, that is hopeful to all new Americans and which discriminates against no one,” Schuette said in a Facebook post in January 2017. “President Trump’s Executive Order is not a ban on Muslims, and he is placing the security of Americans first.”
At the time, there was a massive outcry against the ban, which caused chaos at airports and initially applied to Green Card holders.
Whitmer has called the ban “fundamentally un-American” and “outright dangerous”.
The Democratic nominee has also criticized Trump’s other immigration policies, including family separation.
Schuette failed to condemn State Senator Patrick Colbeck when the lawmaker erroneously accused former candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Whitmer denounced the Islamophobic remarks against her then-Democratic opponent.
In November 2017, Schuette sat next to far right operative Steve Bannon at a GOP dinner in Macomb County. Bannon, then-Trump’s chief strategist, has been accused of being a neo-Nazi. He regularly stokes fear of immigrants and Muslims.
Both candidates back the state’s anti-boycott law, which advocates say chills free speech and violates the First Amendment to protect Israel from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Whitmer bowed to Republican pressure on the issue; Schuette has accused her of sympathizing with the Palestinian group Hamas.
Whitmer’s running mate Garlin Gilchrist had tweeted in 2009: “Hamas is a legitimately elected party that only rose to power b/c of Israeli aggression & Western complicity/enablement.”
Hamas won internationally monitored legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006.
Federal judges in Kansas and Arizona have found the two states’ anti-boycott laws to be unconstitutional.
Both candidates acknowledge that car insurance in Michigan is too high.
Schuette’s plan, however, appears to fault consumers, not providers, for the high costs; it focuses on fighting fraud and stopping “frivolous lawsuits”.
Schuette calls for creating a “multi-faceted fraud authority between the Insurance, Attorney General and State Police agencies, with real law enforcement power to investigate scam networks and prosecute false claims.”
Whitmer has also called for fighting fraud. However, the former state senator has come out against “redlining”, which allows insurance companies to set different prices for geographical areas, disproportionately raising the costs in urban communities.
Insurance rates are particularly high in Detroit and Dearborn.
“If we don’t address the discrimination problem – where insurance companies can decide your rates based on your credit rating or your marital status or your education level or your ZIP code – then we haven’t fixed the problem, because they retain the ability to increase your rates arbitrarily on non-driving factors,” Whitmer told Detroit’s Crain Business in July.
The attorney general’s record on education is tainted by the fact that he represented the state in a lawsuit by Detroit students demanding better schools in 2016. Then, Schuette argued that there is no constitutional right to literacy.
Still, Schuette’s campaign focuses on enabling all children to be literate by third grade.
His educational plan stresses school of choice.
“We must trust and support parents, whether they choose their neighborhood school, another district, a charter or online school, private options, or the school they establish within their own home,” Schuette’s platform says.
Critics of school of choice say charter schools divert resources from the public system. They also fear that turning schools into an profitable industry would degrade the quality of education. A 2014 Detroit Free Press report found that more than 60 percent of charter schools in Michigan are run by for profit companies.
However, supporters say school of choice put more power in the hands of the parents to do what they think is best for their children. They also offer children in underperforming districts an alternative to public schools.
Whitmer has slammed Republicans’ educational plans accusing them of “expanding unaccountable for-profit managed charter schools, over-emphasizing standardized tests, attacking hard-working educators and adopting a one-size fits all approach to education that has left our kids behind.”
Whitmer’s plan calls for pre-school educational programs that she argues saves money in the long run by ensuring that children are ready to learn when they get to kindergarten.
“Improving our education system requires structuring school financing in an equitable manner and in a way that begins to provide adequate funding,” her platform says. “Michigan also needs to adopt strong transparency and accountability measures for all public schools, including how taxpayer money is spent by for-profit companies managing day-to-day operations at charter and cyber schools.”