Michigan Senate will have first female Majority Leader, Winnie Brinks

Lansing — Fresh out of their historic takeover of Michigan’s legislative branch, newly empowered Democrats elected the first black and female leaders of the Legislature on Thursday to guide lawmaking for at least the next two years.

House Democrats elected State Rep. Joe Tate of Detroit as their new leader, making the former National Football League player and Michigan State University offensive lineman the first African American to be elected Speaker of the Michigan House.

The former Marine will also be the first Detroiter in a majority party leadership position in decades as Tate leads the 56-member Democratic caucus alongside a Democratic majority in the Senate.

“It’s historic and it’s a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility,” Tate said. “Being from Detroit brings its own experience, but also understanding that this house is for the entire state of Michigan.”

Tate’s election came hours after Michigan Senate Democrats chose Grand Rapids state Sen. Winnie Brinks as the first-ever female majority leader in the chamber, as she pledged to work to protect the economy and the equality of the state.

Democrats chose Brinks in a closed meeting inside the Capitol two days after winning a Senate majority for the first time in 40 years. For the four-year term that begins in 2023, Democrats will hold 20 of the 38 Senate seats.

“You will see continued attention to making sure our economy is strong, to making sure our education systems are strong, to making sure high school students, when they graduate, have the opportunity to continue in the qualifications that will lead to good jobs that will allow them to build a life here,” Brinks told reporters Thursday morning.

“You’re going to see us echo the questions voters resoundingly endorsed on the ballot, affirming reproductive rights, affirming people’s ability to live their authentic selves,” Brinks added. “We will be a state where equality is valued.”

After:How historic Democrat victories will bring ‘monumental’ change to Michigan

Brinks is the daughter of Dutch dairy farmers and immigrants, according to her Michigan Senate biography. She was first elected to the State House in 2012 and won her Senate seat in 2018. Prior to serving in the Legislature, she worked for a Grand Rapids nonprofit as a social worker aiming to improve workplaces.

She comes from Kent County, a former Republican stronghold that has shifted heavily in favor of Democrats in recent years. Brinks originally ran as a write-in candidate in 2012 after her district’s incumbent, Rep. Roy Schmidt, switched parties to Republicans and recruited an ally to run for the Democratic nomination.

The 2012 race was her first campaign for public office, but she secured enough write-in votes to be the Democratic nominee in the general election. She beat Schmidt in November 2012 to take her seat.

Brinks described his decade in office as “quite a journey”.

“I have personally been through very tough election cycles and election races,” she said. “It gives me a really good insight into what our members have been through.”

State Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said the future Majority Leader’s story was “emblematic of the Democratic journey to majority.”

“If you look at where the turn to the Democrats is … it came out of Grand Rapids,” Moss said. “I just think she’s really in tune with getting our grassroots areas done, but also making sure that people who don’t feel like they have a home in the Republican Party are included and feel seen by Democratic priorities.”

Current Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said Brinks won “unanimous” support in a vote held Thursday morning by the new 20-member Democratic caucus.

Ananich, whose term is limited and who is stepping down at the end of the year, said Brinks was decisive but made sure everyone’s voices were heard.

“She knows she has a diverse caucus,” Ananich said.

Tate has been a key figure in recent years in Democratic calls for Republican accountability and a significant player in landmark budget approvals in recent years. He became a voice in the state Democratic party and chaired the party’s nominating convention as recently as August.

While Tate has long been considered the favorite to lead the Democratic caucus, Rep. Felicia Brabec, Township of D-Pittsfield, sent a pre-vote statement to the leadership that she was seeking to lead the caucus as the first speaker. black. The closed meeting where the members chose Tate lasted more than two hours.

The new Tate-led majority will likely focus on education, infrastructure, health care affordability, workers’ rights, policy reform and ethics. “There will be no surprises,” Tate said, noting that these were issues Democrats had been trying to push for years in Lansing.

Asked if the controversial Right to Work Act of 2012 would be repealed, House Majority Leader Abraham Aiash’s elected representative, D-Hamtramck, said “absolutely”. Tate said the chamber would “take a look at it”.

“We know what the right to work has done to this state, and obviously that’s something we’ve been talking about for a decade,” Tate said. Tate’s father, Coleman Tate Sr., was a Detroit firefighter who died in the line. service in 1981 and his mother a Detroit public school teacher, according to his biography.

Tate was the starting offensive lineman for three years at Michigan State and co-captain in 2003. After graduating from MSU, Tate played in the NFL for two years for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Falcons of Atlanta and the St. Louis Rams, his campaign website said. .

He joined the US Marine Corps and deployed twice to Afghanistan before earning a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Michigan. He worked as a program manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation before his election in 2018.

“Joe is cool, calm, collected and collaborative,” Aiash said. “We are excited to advance an agenda for workers across the state and we know the responsibility that comes with that.”

Senate Republicans chose Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, to be their leader on Thursday. Nesbitt said his caucus would serve as a “loyal opposition.”

In the House, Republicans have chosen third-term state Rep. Matt Hall to lead the 54-member minority in the next session.

The Comstock Township Republican said he would focus on reducing inflation and increasing the number of jobs, and that he would “stay the course” against policies inconsistent with the “most tenets and beliefs”. most important” of the caucus.

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