Democratic Diversity: Upgrading The Race for Attorney General

BY BRIAN STONE

One of the greatest hallmarks of the Democratic Party is our embrace of diversity. As the Democratic field of candidates widen for Michigan Attorney General, it's important that we ensure Democratic leaders are pushing for all kinds of diversity, including sexual orientation and gender identity, on the top of the ticket.

For those not in the know, traditionally, the Michigan Democratic Party works to ensure that there are African Americans and candidates of both genders at the top of the ticket each year. This year we're running into an unusual, but not necessarily unwelcome, possibility of having all women at the top of the ticket for 2018. The only problem is that all of those women are white.

This is putting additional pressure on party leadership to recruit an African American candidate. Who becomes our Democratic attorney general candidate won't be decided in a primary election, but instead decided at the Spring convention in 2018 by party members.

In the meantime, Dana Nessel is running a campaign to garner support within the party ranks. Nessel is most famous for taking the DeBoer v. Snyder case up to the Supreme Court to win our community the right to marriage in 2015. Nessel was also a Wayne County Prosecutor and is a successful private practice attorney.

Unfortunately, because Nessel is white, it means that some within the party are talking about writing her off so that they can fill deficiencies in the diversity of the ticket. The unfortunate undercurrent to this discussion is that, within the Democratic party, race is important for diversity but sexual orientation is not.

I ran into this strain of political homophobia myself. When I became the first openly gay man to run for public office in Dearborn history, an elected official who was a fellow veteran (I'm a decorated Navy veteran) told me to contact the other openly gay legislators and refused to offer support because, "We don't have anything in common that would justify it."

It was as if my sexual orientation was the only thing he saw in me and not our common background as veterans or the many times we had worked together on veterans issues in the past. That same elected official later endorsed an opponent who had never served with the absurd excuse that they would be a better advocate on veterans' issues.

We need to change this attitude within our party. The reality is that legal, de facto discrimination from the government continues to be widespread against LGBT Michiganders. We have neither the right to fair housing nor the right to non-discrimination in employment and no one can be depended on to do a better job standing up for our community than one of our own.

Never before have we had an openly gay candidate for any statewide office in Michigan. The discussion within party leadership should consider someone of a minority sexual orientation as an equal addition to the diversity of the ticket as if they were of a minority race.

Likewise, Nessel provides benefits to the ticket that will help the party's broader goals of turning the state blue. When Democrats spend money on advertising next year, much of it will go to attacking the likely Republican Gubernatorial candidate, Bill Schuette.

By placing Nessel on the ticket, her signature achievement of beating Schuette in front of the Supreme Court can be used to remind voters that Schuette is a bigot who wasted millions of their dollars on a losing fight that more than 60 percent of the public disagreed with him on.

As a communications professional, I can tell you this would do wonders for our ability to layer our message and ensure that all parts of the ticket are helping us win back the governorship.

It's time we upgraded our idea of diversity within the party to actively include persons of minority sexual orientation and gender identity. Anyone can join the party by going to MichiganDems.com. Those who join by at the end of February 2018 will be able to participate in the convention and help Dana Nessel make history once again. I hope to see you there!

Brian Stone is an award-winning communications professional, Navy veteran and a contributing writer for the Huffington Post.
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