Nessel campaigns in U.P.

Michigan attorney general candidate talks Enbridge Line 5, LGBTQ rights, marijuana legalization

MARQUETTE — Dana Nessel, a candidate seeking the Democratic Party’s endorsement for Michigan’s attorney general in 2018, sat down with The Mining Journal Thursday to discuss her campaign efforts.

Nessel, who launched her bid for attorney general in August 2017, visited all regions of the Upper Peninsula last week while campaigning.

If elected, Nessel said she would aim to improve access to the attorney general’s office and services across Michigan, with an emphasis on the Upper Peninsula.

“I don’t want anyone, anywhere in the state to feel like they’re forgotten, or like their lives matter less because of where they live,” Nessel said. “That’s wrong and we are all paying taxes for these offices. One of the things that is really important to me, as it pertains to the Upper Peninsula, is I want to make certain that we have an office of attorney general in the Upper Peninsula, and furthermore, I want to have liaisons to every single, solitary county in the Upper Peninsula, so that when people have a problem … whatever the problem is, I want people to be able to contact someone at the office of the attorney general and not have to spend … days calling around trying to find somebody, some human to talk to … We need to have an office up here where people can go when they need help.”

Nessel, a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School, started her career in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor, with assignments in the Auto Theft Unit, the Police Conduct Review Team and the Child and Family Abuse Bureau, providing her with experience prosecuting a wide variety of crimes. She believes the role of attorney general is to ensure the law is enforced with regard to all crime, including corporate and environmental crimes.

“You can’t be tough on crime without being tough on environmental crime,” she said.

Nessel said, as Michigan’s attorney general, she would fight to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5, a controversial 65-year old major oil and liquid natural gas pipeline that passes through the Straits of Mackinac.

“We know that in the event of a spill, you are looking at the contamination of hundreds of miles of shoreline,” Nessel said. “The devastation would be so extensive to so many communities, and we’re talking about the biggest ecological and economic disaster that our state will ever see … My role, as (attorney general), would be to protect the state of Michigan from this environmental disaster.”

Nessel said she would have handled and prosecuted the Flint water crisis in a different manner than current Attorney General Bill Schuette did.

“First and foremost, I would have been responsive immediately, as soon as residents of Flint began to complain about their water … and we know that there were complaints months and months, I think years before Schuette actually took action and did anything at all. Secondly, I certainly would have not handled the prosecutions in the matter in which he’s done so,” she said, noting that if elected, she would likely need to re-evaluate the prosecutions of the state officials involved from the ground up, as she feels there may have been a conflict of interest in the handling of the cases.

Nessel is also passionate about protecting and securing rights for the LGBTQ community.

During her time at Nessel & Kessel Law, a firm she founded in 2005 as managing partner, Nessel was involved in several prominent cases involving LGBTQ rights.

One such case was the 2012 DeBoer vs. Snyder case, which challenged the bans on marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in Michigan — it later was consolidated with affiliated cases into the landmark Obergefell vs. Hodges case in the U.S. Supreme Court, which legalized same-sex marriage at a national level in June 2015.

“I don’t know anybody whose life was better because same-sex couples could not jointly adopt or marry each other,” Nessel said. “I know a whole lot of people whose lives were worse though.”

Nessel also helped found the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a task force that has investigated and prosecuted hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals and communities with a 100 percent conviction rate.

In addition to fighting for the LGBTQ community, Nessel also believes in fighting for the rights of women in Michigan.

“I think we need to have an (attorney general) who’s very active in protecting women,” she said, noting her support for reproductive freedoms and goal to protect women from harassment as attorney general.

Nessel said she is the only Michigan attorney general candidate who supports the legalization of marijuana. She believes the money the state could capture from the legalization of marijuana could be put to use for needed road repairs and upgrades, illustrated by her tagline: “pot for potholes.”

Nessel is one of three Democratic candidates currently seeking endorsement from Michigan’s Democratic Party for the attorney general candidacy. The other two candidates are Patrick Miles Jr., former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, and William Noakes, former Wayne County deputy corporation counsel.

The Democratic Party’s candidate for Michigan’s attorney general, as well as the candidate for secretary of state and the candidates for Michigan Supreme Court are determined in April, at the Michigan Democratic Party’s 2018 State Endorsement Convention.

Registered members of Michigan’s Democratic Party can attend the convention at Cobo Hall in Detroit on April 15 to vote for the candidates of their choice for the seats.

Nessel and her campaign believe this year’s convention will make history with attendance and participation.

“I am seeing an enthusiasm and excitement that I have never seen in my life … I think that we are going to energize a lot of people to come out and vote Democratic,” she said.

Nessel urges residents to register with the Democratic party by March 15 and attend the convention if interested, as anyone above age 16 by March can vote at the convention. The vote is proportionate, which campaign officials explained means that individual votes from less populous counties, such as many in the Upper Peninsula, will count a lot.

Nessel’s campaign will provide transportation from areas in the Upper Peninsula to Detroit to attend the convention, as well as lodging for the overnight stay in Detroit.

For more information on Nessel, her campaign and how to register, visit dana2018.com.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.