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Democrats in governor's race talk schools, union jobs, health care at Detroit town hall

Feb 28, 2018

The four Democrats vying become Michigan’s next governor talked public education and public sector jobs at a union-sponsored town hall in Detroit Tuesday night.

Gretchen Whitmer, Abdul El-Sayed, Shri Thanedar, and Bill Cobbs largely agreed on the issues.

All agreed that teachers are underpaid, under-valued, and that arming them is not the answer to school shootings.

Democratic candidates for governor Bill Cobbs, front, Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

All promised not to appoint any emergency managers if elected, and said that the governor’s office and state legislature should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Cobbs did go out on a bit of a limb when he expressed disdain for a new state law popular with some more business-minded Democrats.

Cobbs slammed the “transformational brownfield projects” that now let developers capture many new tax revenues, including a portion of sales and income taxes, for themselves.

The new law “now allows hundreds of millions of tax dollars to flow into private businesses pockets at the expense of the citizens,” Cobb said. “We’ve got to stop this nonsense of having our tax dollars flowing into billionaires’ pockets who don’t need the money. That doesn’t make sense.”

None of the candidates attacked one another directly.

But El-Sayed in particular repeatedly expressed support for a state-run, single-payer health care option. He’s used that in the past to draw a distinction with Whitmer, who says she wants to keep building on the Affordable Care Act and has the support of some powerful players in the health insurance industry.

Nor did the potential legal issues surrounding El-Sayed’s eligibility to run come up. Some party insiders have raised the specter of legal uncertainty over whether he’s been a “qualified elector” for four years as state law requires, because he lived in New York from 2013 to 2016. El-Sayed’s campaign says he is eligible because he always maintained a residence in Michigan.

Whitmer, widely considered the front-runner, seemed to make a plea of sorts for party unity.

Another Republican governor would not be “just another extension of Snyder for a third term,” Whitmer said. “It could be immeasurably worse if [Michigan Attorney General] Bill Schuette is our next governor. And I want to make sure we are all very clear about that.”