LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic candidate for Michigan governor, has chosen a Detroit native as her running mate.
Whitmer introduced her pick Monday morning in Lansing.
“Today I am announcing my running mate, and I’m going to introduce you to him right now: Garlin Gilchrist,” Whitmer told an enthusiastic crowd in the shadow of the state capitol.
The Detroit native brings diversity to an otherwise all-white female ticket.
>>App users: Watch the announcement here.
He previously worked for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and President Barack Obama’s campaign. He also ran for Detroit city clerk in 2017, coming in second to the incumbent.
Gilchrist has never served in office, leaving some people concerned about his experience, but not Whitmer.
“I wanted somebody who’s got my back, who’s going to work just as hard as I do, that has integrity, that knows how to get things done, and Garlin Gilchrist fits all those requirements I mean to the max. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this partnership,” she said. “You know, if it was just about experience, I can tell you this, after four decades of Bill Schuette, we can’t afford any more of that kind of experience.”
The backdrop for the announcement was a crumbling Lansing road where a chalk-written message of “Fix the Damn Roads” was scrawled.
“We have so many infrastructure problems and challenges we need to fix, like these roads, like our water system, like our schools, making sure they’re up to date,” Gilchrist said, pointing to the road. “I don’t want to be concerned that the glass of water I give my son or daughter is going to make them sick.”
Gilchrist, 35, graduated from Farmington High School before attending the University of Michigan, where he says he studied computer engineering and computer science.
“That experience led me to make a tough choice. I wanted to be a software engineer. And I, like so may people my age, felt like I had to go to the West Coast to do that. So I did,” he said.
Gilchrist moved to Seattle where he worked for Microsoft’s SharePoint system. He also served as social media manager for Washington state during President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
After marrying his wife Ellen, Gilchrist moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as a community organizer for the Center for Community Change and MoveOn.org, leading projects to protect and expand Medicaid.
“After five years of doing that however, there was something missing: I needed to come home. I missed home. I was gone for nine years,” Gilchrist said.
He says his twins, Garland III and Emily Grace, were 10 months old when they moved to Detroit, where he worked as the first director of innovation and emerging technology for the city.
“My job was to make government work for people, was to restore trust in a broken system,” Gilchrist said, noting he wrote the city’s open data and transparency policy.
“That’s exactly what we need in state government,” he added.
The Michigan Democratic Party will vote on Gilchrist’s nomination during Sunday’s convention in East Lansing.
“It’s time to get to work. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves to work alongside Gretchen Whitmer to build a better Michigan and make this state what we dream about. Make this state what my 4-year-old children won’t want to leave to go pursue opportunities. They can get it right here at home,” said Gilchrist.
Last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette announced former state Rep. and current Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons would be his running mate. The Republican Party must also confirm Lyons’ nomination during its convention this weekend.
Additionally, candidates for attorney general and secretary of state will be picked by the parties when they meet.