During Michelle Deatrick’s run for Washtenaw County commissioner the proud Democrat took seriously her responsibility of standing up for the people she would be representing. It was her first run for elected office so she took a terrific approach.
“We listened hard,” she said. “And what we discovered was that there were issues everyone cared about.”
Deatrick won the seat, knocking out a three-term Republican. Now she’s looking to move onward and upward, announcing her candidacy for the State Senate 18th District seat currently held by Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor).
Warren will be term-limited and several Democrats in the Ann Arbor area are jumping into the race, including state Rep. Adam Zemke and former state Rep. Jeff Irwin. Anuja Rajendra, founder and CEO of Ann Arbor-based fitness and dance studio BollyFit, also has joined the strong lineup of possible successors.
The Democratic primary is in August.
Deatrick offers an “authentic progressive vision” for building a movement to take back Michigan and the country from the forces of big money. She values people over profit, with a future that offers hope and opportunity to all.
“There is so much we can do and building bridges at the local level is vital to healing so much of what I see as so sadly wrong with this country,” she said. “I feel connected to both the Ann Arbor community and the Ypsilanti community and I work hard to understand everyone’s perspective while sticking to my core very progressive values.”
While her time as a Washtenaw County commissioner has been rewarding, she admits it could be frustrating at times.
“Sometimes on the county commission you feel like you are hitting your head on a brick wall because so much of what we are dealing with is coming down from Lansing and DC,” she said. “I would like to take these issues to Lansing and work on them there.”
Deatrick’s run for the Washtenaw County Commission was her first time through the election process as a candidate. Her two-year term as a Washtenaw County commissioner will end before she would take office in the state senate if she wins the election.
“I was recruited to run for the state senate because people believe I would make a good senator and also because this particular seat has been held by a woman for over 35 years,” she said. “We have 38 state senators in Michigan and four are women and only one Democrat woman and that’s Sen. Rebekah Warren whose seat I am running for.
“It does matter to have women’s voices in the room. Government is a force for the good when used effectively.”
Deatrick, who laughingly says she was an “activist in the fifth grade,” became an advocate for small-farm rights in 2011.
“At the time the state started to implement regulations that were favoring the big-factory farms at the expense of our small family farms,” she said. “I also was doing some work as the appointed member of the ordinance committee in my township and had fought a company trying to get oil-drilling leases on farms neighboring my own 80-acre farm in Superior Township and educating people on land rights and holding town halls. All this was on a part-time basis.”
Her son, who couldn’t drive yet, “demanded” that she drive him to a meeting featuring Bernie Sanders, who she admits she had never heard of at that time.
“I went into the meeting and I heard a vision that spoke to everything I had long been thinking,” she said. “I became heavily involved in his campaign both locally and throughout the state and even at the national level.”
In 2016, Deatrick was the Bernie Sanders campaign’s first hire in Michigan.
“He encouraged people to run,” she says. “Someone brought up to me county commission even they told me I probably couldn’t win because I was going up against a three-term Republican who no one even ran against. They say women are asked seven times before they decide to run. With me it was only five.
“I thought even if I can’t win I can certainly engage in a dialogue and conversation on important issues. We knocked on 20,000 doors and visited people on their porches and went out to areas where we were told that no one cares enough to come out and knock on their door. We discovered there were issues that everyone cared about.”
District 18 includes the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, Milan as well as many townships and rural areas in Washtenaw County.
“It’s an interesting District and is similar to the county commission district I represent even though it covers some different areas in that it has urban core cities, small towns and then areas that are extremely rural,” she said.
An environmental advocate and co-founder of the Michigan Small Farm Council, Deatrick has worked closely with grassroots activists and community members. She is dedicated to creating a more equal Michigan with a growing number of good-paying jobs and a tax system that doesn’t favor big business.
“I believe that the ways of governing we’ve relied on are inadequate, and that our broken state and federal governments are evidence of that inadequacy,” she said. “We have lived long enough with the politics of fear, on both sides of the aisle. Our movement must take a different path.”
For more information on Deatrick and her run for senate, log onto http://www.votemichelledeatrick.com/