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Democratic candidates for Attorney General on consumer protection, the environment, LGBTQ rights

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Democratic candidates for Attorney General (l to r) Dana Nessel, William Noakes, and Pat Miles.

This weekend Democrats will endorse a candidate for Attorney General, a candidate for Secretary of State, and candidates for State Supreme Court. Jocelyn Benson is running unopposed for Secretary of State. Three Democrats want the job of Attorney General. Below are responses (in alphabetical order of the candidates’ last name) to issues such as consumer protection, the environment, Enbridge’s Line 5 which runs under the Straits of Mackinac, and LGBTQ civil rights. 

Here are the websites for the three candidates:

Pat Miles             https://www.milesformichigan.com/

Dana Nessel        https://www.dana2018.com/

William Noakes  http://noakesforag.com/

(The meaning of the spoken word is not always understandable in print. The following quotes are verbatim except to adjust for confusing syntax.)

Consumer Protection

Miles:  “The Consumer Protection Division in Michigan used to be the gold standard. We had the first ever, under Frank Kelly, consumer protection division in an attorney general’s office in the nation. And we had one of the strongest laws and the law was gutted by an activist conservative Michigan Supreme Court. And the division in the attorney general’s office, the Division for Consumer Protection, has been decimated by Attorney General (Bill) Schuette. So, I would make one of my top priorities to restore the Consumer Protection Division in Michigan in the attorney general’s office and to protect seniors and working families from predatory interests, including our veterans, coming from whether it’s drug companies that are using predatory pricing models, whether it’s student borrowing industry, whether it’s the corporate special interest that are trying to take advantage of consumers. We need to protect them and use that division and strengthen it again. So, that’s one of my top priorities.”

Nessel:  “I think we have companies who for very long in this state have gotten a free ride and they’ve been able to take advantage of consumers protection of seniors. I want to do more to make certain that this epidemic of abuse and neglect and economic exploitation of seniors to an end and that somebody is really there to advocate on behalf of the elderly in this state. There is no donor, there’s no corporate entity that owns me and I am unafraid to protect people at any cost.”

Noakes:  “The fact of the matter is businesses generally can look out for themselves. They can afford attorneys. I know, having been the general counsel of Meijer for a number of years. We didn’t need quite as much protection from the attorney general’s office as an individual consumer would need. And, so, I would tend to lean a little bit more in favor of the individual consumer because they generally don’t have the protection.”

Environment/Enbridge Line 5

Miles: “The Attorney General should aggressively address water contamination issues and should stop the wholesale contamination by polluters and making sure that we have strong regulatory controls both from the federal level and at the state level. The Trump administration is trying to roll back those ones, those regulatory controls, at the federal level and the attorney general should be fighting that. We should be trying to strengthen our environmental law rather than weaken them.”

“The attorney general has the authority to shut down Line 5 and I would use that authority immediately to shut down Line 5. It’s too risky to have that much oil that is going through 60 plus year old lines that still have structural problems, that are in dire need of repair and sitting under 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. It’s just too much for risk at stake.”

Nessel: “The policies I’m most interested in are things like clean drinking water for people. It’s a terrible issue in our state. We have a state that is surrounded by 20 percent of the Earth’s fresh surface water. And yet, everywhere you go we see problems with people’s drinking water.”

“The environment is something that I think is incredibly important and unfortunately what we’ve seen is, for instance, there’s no better example than Line 5. We know that literally at any moment we are facing the biggest economic and biggest ecological catastrophe that we every have had or ever will have here in the state of Michigan. And yet, you have state actors who are happy to conduct study after study after study and then to ignore those studies completely. We need somebody who’s actually going to take action to protect our Great Lakes. We have tens of thousands of jobs, we have billions of dollars in tourism and recreation that our state residents depend on and somebody need to protect those folks. I’ve made a commitment that day one that I’m in office I will file suit in the Court of Claims to shut down Line 5. I’ll be seeking an immediate injunction and that’s the kind of steadfast leadership that I think we need on these important issues.”

Noakes: “Let’s just take a couple of examples (of drinking water contamination). There are two in particular, one outside of Oscoda which is where there was a former Air Force base. There’s also another site, Marquette, where there was another Air Force base. And both of those are suspected of leeching into the water the toxin that they used to put out aircraft fires. Those are both federal, or were federal facilities. And so, ultimately I would be looking as attorney general to go after the federal government for remediation of those particular areas. They ultimately can face claims under the federal Tort Claims Act. And as a former Air Force officer who defended claims under the federal Tort Claims Act, I know they can do that.”

“The next thing is dealing with Rockford where we’ve had this situation with Wolverine Worldwide where basically I would go after their company to make sure that they clean up that are to the greatest extent possible because they polluted it; they should be held responsible for that.”

LGBTQ Rights

Miles:  “I believe that the Elliot-Larsen (Civil Rights Act) law in Michigan should be amended to include LGBT people, that there should be protection because right now under the law in Michigan you can get married on a Sunday and get fired on a Monday and it’s legal. And we should protect people from those types of abuses and from that type of discrimination. The attorney general can speak out and use the bully pulpit to call for stronger legislation to protect the LGBTQ community. It’s one of my top priorities I would say. I believe that Bill Schuette also unnecessarily intervened with the Civil Rights Commission when it was looking to interpret the Elliot-Larsen law. And that’s something that I would not hae done as attorney general. So this is one of my top priorities: to be a good ally to the LGBTQ community in Michigan.”

Nessel: “I am the first person to run for a statewide office who’s openly gay. I am in a same sex marriage. I have a wonderful wife and we have two sons together and I make no excuses or apologies for that.”

The project that I’ve been involved in for the last couple of years is something called the Fair Michigan Justice Project. And it’s a first-of-its-kind initiative that my nonprofit, which is called Fair Michigan, in concert with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy put together to battle the epidemic of hate crimes in the state of Michigan. We’ve had a 29 percent increase in hate crimes in our state since the Trump election. We are the fourth highest in the nation. So, together with Kym Worthy we put together this Anti-Hate Crime Task Force. We have a special prosecutor. We have a special investigator. We have a special victims’ rights advocate. We investigate and prosecute hate crime. So, in the last year-and-a-half we have charged 18 defendants, almost all of them on capital offenses, homicides, attempted murders, criminal sexual conduct first degree, armed robbery, you name it. Fourteen have gone all the way through the system.. We have a 100 percent conviction rate. I’m very proud of that project because I think it was very necessary to attack a substantial issue in the criminal justice system that really needed to be addressed in an innovative manner.”

Noakes: “Well, I think ultimately what we have to look to as we look to the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act which I think it could be interpreted broadly enough to include the LGBTQ community. And, if not, I think we ought to look at changing the legislation and perhaps one way to do that other than doing it in the legislature would be to actually go take it to the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan in terms of finding the right case to take before them. I don’t see any reason why LGBTQ folks shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as everybody else, particularly since Elliot-Larsen was one of the first civil rights acts in the nation at the state level. It’s just a matter of changing it over time. I mean, it’s been in existence for 50 years.”

“The last thing I want to see is somebody who is allowed to marry on Sunday and get fired on Monday.”

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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