LANSING—On a cold, damp New Year’s Day, Gretchen Whitmer began her second term as Michigan’s governor on a message of unity.
“Our task is clear: Focus on the fundamentals, work together, and get things done,” she said.
The state’s 49th governor gave her remarks from the steps of the state Capitol, where Kyra Harris Bolden—Michigan’s first Black female Supreme Court justice—administered the oath of office.
During her inauguration address, Whitmer pledged to pursue “common sense” gun reform, continue investing in K-12 education, improve worker rights, lower taxes for the state’s retirees, and tackle climate change, adding that she would provide more specifics in her State of the State speech on Jan. 25.
Alongside her on Sunday were other top Democratic leaders, including newly reelected Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. For the first time in 40 years, Democrats have taken full control of Michigan’s government.
“For the next four years, our task is to ensure that every Michigander, present and future, can succeed,” Whitmer said to the nearly 1,000 people in attendance. “And our message is simple: We’re putting the world on notice that your future is here in Michigan.”
With a newly powerful Democratic caucus, Whitmer faces a test of delivering on years of promises in a swing state where Democrats must appeal to more than just their base—or risk losing their majorities when the Legislature is up for grabs again in two years.
Whitmer acknowledged several Republican legislative leaders and pledged throughout her speech to work across the aisle and with “anyone that wants to solve problems and get things done.”
Newly selected Democratic leaders in the Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks and House Speaker Joe Tate, joined the governor in stressing the importance of bipartisanship during their speeches.
“A stunning opportunity stands before us to work together like never before across legislative chambers and alongside the executive branch,” said Brinks, who was selected as the Senate’s first female majority leader in December.
The first day of session for the Michigan Legislature will be Jan. 11, at which time Democrats are expected to introduce bills to reform the state’s gun laws and repeal right-to-work laws that have consistently tamped down unions. Michigan’s $6 billion budget surplus is also expected to be among lawmakers’ top priorities heading into 2023.
The inauguration ceremony came just days after two men were sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms after they led a plot to kidnap Whitmer in 2020 ahead of the presidential election. Whitmer has previously blamed Republican leaders for stoking violent rhetoric and making light of the plot to kidnap and assassinate her.
The AP contributed to this report.