Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor co-hosts Marquette event

Garlin Gilchrist II, the running mate of Democratic Michigan Gov. candidate Gretchen Whitmer, visits with a group of people at the Marquette County Democratic Party headquarters Sunday. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — Detroit political activist and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, Garlin Gilchrist II, visited the Marquette County Democratic Party headquarters Sunday afternoon to co-host the Cider for Candidates event, where fresh apple cider and homemade donuts were served.

Gilchrist is the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer and Gilchrist are campaigning against Republican governor candidate Bill Schuette and lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

State reps. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, who is running for re-election for the 109th House against Republican Melody Wagner, and Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, who is running for Michigan’s 38th Senate District against former state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, also attended the event.

After about 35 people gathered at the building along Front Street to meet the candidates, Gilchrist took to the stage to discuss health care, education and retiree pensions.

“We need to have systems that work for people,” Gilchrist said. “State government has lost a lot of people’s trust because it’s failed them in very dangerous ways. We need to have people in place that know how systems work, (and) listen, respect and respond to people’s needs.”

One of the needs, Gilchrist said, is making sure everyone has access to affordable health care.

“We have on one hand, Gretchen Whitmer, a woman who fought hard to expand access to health care by expanding Medicaid by working with a Republican governor (Rick Snyder) who embraced the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “That delivered health care to 680,000 people by working across party lines.”

Because of that expansion, Gilchrist’s family was able to afford care for his grandmother who resided in a skilled-nursing facility on 7 Mile in Detroit for the last 10 years of her life while fighting dementia.

“There are still 600,000 people in Michigan who don’t have health care,” Gilchrist explained. “That’s what Gretchen and I want to do — extend health care to more people and protect people in Michigan who have pre-existing conditions.”

Gilchrist studied computer engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with honors in 2005. Shortly after, he worked as a software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington, where he also served as social media manager for the 2008 presidential campaign for Barack Obama. He was also the first director of new media at the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., and spent three years as national campaign director at MoveOn.org.

Ten months after his wife gave birth to twins, they moved back to Detroit.

“We want to lay the foundation for the future,” he said. “I thought I needed to go there (Seattle) to be the professional I wanted to be, but if we do what we need to, my children might not have to make that choice. They can see a path to a highway skill and opportunity in the state of Michigan.”

To make sure students strive in the future, Gilchrist stressed the importance of having equitable education in each district.

“We believe that every single person should have access to a high-quality public school education,” he said. “That means equitably funding our public schools. Not equally, equitably, because every school district does not have the same needs.”

When making policies pertaining to education, he said educators must be apart of the discussion and that he plans to fight for accessible water in the Great Lakes state, as well.

“Kids shouldn’t have to think about what water fountain to use at school,” he said about Detroit and Flint public schools. “That’s ridiculous. We can’t accept this.”

Jenn Hill, who’s running for a seat on the Marquette City Commission next month, asked Gilchrist how he felt about state revenue sharing and the dark store issue.

While he said he isn’t up to speed on the dark store issue, he said the plan is to work with the Legislature to reinstate revenue sharing and stop taxing people’s retirement pensions, stating that his retired father pays over $200 a month.

“People who are retiring, people who worked really hard through their whole career, you retired and made sacrifices in the present so that you could have a fully funded pention in the future,” he said.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.