Governor-elect Whitmer begins transition, announces team; says "work begins now"

Democratic Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer celebrates after clinching the win on Election Day 2018.

Michigan’s new governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer said she is not wasting any time getting to work and is started the transition the day after Election Day.

In a news conference Wednesday morning at Motor City Casino, just a few flights of stairs above where she celebrated becoming Michigan’s second female governor in state history, Whitmer said history was made.

“We see what happens when people show up to the polls and make their voices heard,” she said. “I feel really good that voters in this state voted to reject bigotry and hate.”

Whitmer said the transition team is being assembled and met with current Gov. Rick Snyder. She was quick to remind everyone that she is the governor-elect, right now.

“There is one governor at a time. I am not the next governor until January,” Whitmer added.

She announced her transition team, which will be led by Farmington Hills attorney and long-time Democrat Mark Bernstein. Also included on her team, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan President and CEO Daniel Loepp, Gary Torgow, Chairman of Chemical Financial Corporation, the holding company of the largest bank headquartered in Michigan, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha whose research helped expose the Flint Water Crisis, and others.

Whitmer said she is looking forward to working her transition team, as well as others who may work in her cabinet, which she said, could include Republicans.

“I believe there needs to be racial representation, religious representation, political representation as well as geographic and socioeconomic,” Whitmer explained. “It will be reflected in both my transition and cabinet. There are a number of people who I have developed relationships that I’m eager to work with.”

The governor-elect made it clear, she wants to work with the legislature during her tenure to accomplish her plans. Following the election, Republicans will control both the House and Senate in Michigan. For Whitmer, that means relationships working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will be critical.

“I’ll be reaching out to them to start building that relationship and maintaining it throughout the course of the four years – that’s extremely important to governance, that’s what the people of Michigan want and expect form us,” she added.

One of her first priorities in the legislature, infrastructure and drinking water. She cited concerns about communities across Michigan that can’t drink tap water and said it’s time to ‘get it done.’

“Of course, we will be writing a state budget very quickly here and introducing it in the early part of next year and so these are the first fundamentals that we will be rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on,” explained Whitmer.

The hallmark of the Whitmer Campaign, ‘fixing the damn roads.’ The linchpin in that plan will come down to funding. Throughout the campaign, she said Michiganders would not be hesitant to raise the gas tax to pay for her infrastructure plans because people were already paying for auto repairs due to crumbling roads.

“My goal is to make sure that we have a dedicated source and I need legislative partners that will help me get that done. If they’re not strong enough to do it, then I’ve always said I’ll go to the voters and go for a bond, but first and foremost I want to sit down with the leadership and really talk about how do we fix this,” Whitmer said, adamantly.

The Democrat also addressed her new clemency abilities once in office and said with Proposal 1 passing allowing the use of recreational marijuana, she doesn’t believe people should ‘bear a lifelong record for conduce that’s now legal.’

“I’ll start taking a look at that and making some decisions and taking some action early next year,” she added.

Zack Pohl, a spokesperson for Whitmer, elaborated on the topic following those statements. He said Michigan’s laws are a little ‘unclear’ right now.

“I think it's a little unclear in Michigan law what the governor's authority is to expunge convictions for marijuana...a legislative solution is most likely necessary,” Pohl said.

Whitmer and her Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist will be inaugurated Jan. 1 at the Michigan State Capitol.

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