Front Line Series: Dana Nessel AG candidate in Michigan

Dana Nessel is the Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Michigan

Democrats in the state of Michigan have been long suffering. The Republican Party controls the governorship, the state House and state Senate. A Democratic leaning group, Priorities USA, studied effects of strict voter ID laws passed in several states including Michigan and argue the laws act as a voter suppression technique that disenfranchised 200,000 voters in the Great Lakes State just in time to assist the Republican candidate in 2016.

Democrats in 2018 are hoping that the enthusiasm that birthed the Resistance movement and led to a string of election swings and victories since 2017 will carry them to majorities in Washington and beyond. But that will require additional focus and resources to go to down-ballot candidates. Dana Nessel is running in one of those critical races. She is the Democratic nominee for state Attorney General.

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Courtesy of the Dana Nessel Campaign

She took time out of her busy schedule for a quick Q & A where she told me that she is tired of a largely apolitical position such as AG being used for partisan ideology. “I will return the office to one that defends the people of Michigan, not corporate special interests or right-wing extremists. That means protecting our natural resources instead of the companies that want to exploit and endanger them for profit, which I will do by filing to shut down Enbridge Line 5 on my first day in office. It is time that seniors, students, working families, women and minority communities had an ally in office.”

One of the most important issues facing the state’s top lawyer will be how to prosecute criminal offenders and what to do with them once convicted. Nessel reports, “The ACLU of Michigan found in 2016 that the growth of Michigan’s incarceration rate is about 31 percent higher than the Midwest average. We must do everything we can to lower that rate and help previous offenders reintegrate into the workforce.” It’s especially difficult to address this need when there is money to be made from keeping people behind bars. “For-profit prisons are one of the worst things that has ever happened to the US. When there is an incentive to incarcerate people, more people are incarcerated unjustly. The for-profit prison system, Geo Group, used to have a facility here in Michigan that was closed down in April 2017. Because the Trump Administration has vowed to use for-profit prisons at the federal level there will be increasing pressure to do so at the state level.”

For Nessel, it’s not just about punishment. Tools can be utilized by law enforcement to prevent future crimes and restore lives. Nessel explains, “I recognize the importance of having diversion programs, and I will focus efforts and resources toward increasing and improving use of specialty courts for substance abuse users and the mentally ill. Sobriety courts, mental health courts and behavioral health courts are important because they reduce recidivism and increase chances of reintegration into society.”

The future Attorney General also made it clear that no one should be above the law. I asked her about justice for Flint and she replied, “Poisoning people in the state of Michigan is arguably the worst thing that has happened in this state under the watch of elected officials. This caused people to completely lose faith in their government, and in order to regain their trust, we need someone who WILL hold state actors accountable. As Michigan Attorney General, I will fight hard to protect our citizens and aggressively pursue criminal charges for all horrific crimes against the people of Michigan.”

Dana made national headlines when she entered the primary by saying bluntly, “Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting? Is it the candidate without a penis? I’d say so.” The bold and astute assessment was made after Nessel had heard grumblings about too many women on the ballot. I asked her about the video and her motivation for releasing something that would—necessarily—raise eyebrows across the state and which proved to be provocative enough to grab some national attention.

“I made and distributed that video during the height of the #MeToo movement,” Nessel explained. “Each day I would awake to a new and disturbing scandal involving a prominent congressman, journalist or actor. At the same time, I was being told that I shouldn’t run for Attorney General, as there would be too many women on the Democratic ticket in Michigan. I felt this was a ludicrous suggestion. Michigan is a state where only 20 percent of our elected officials are female. If there is ever a remedy for rampant sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual assault in the workplace, it’s having more women in leadership positions.”

She concluded from her observations that, “…having more women on the ticket is not a liability, but an asset.” The most efficient way to address sexual harassment and reduce the likelihood of working in a hostile work environment is to have leadership in states and in Washington that better reflects the diverse make-up of the American people. Nessel said, “Having more women in positions of leadership, whether it be the boardroom, the newsroom, or in our state capital will drastically reduce the amount of sexual harassment we see in the office and it will create better protections for women generally. It will also create a more equal workplace which is good for everyone.”

Nessel promises to be an Attorney General that cares about the citizens of Michigan. It will be a real change of pace for the average Michigander to have the state’s top lawyer looking out for them.

Dana Nessel is the Democratic Candidate for Attorney General in the state of Michigan. She has been a legal advocate for the people of Michigan for nearly 25 years. She has been a prosecutor, a child advocate and she has experience policing the police. You can find more about her at and follow her on Twitter @dananessel