MichMash: Running Mates Don’t Usually Make a Difference. You Should Still Care.

Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about all the reasons you should pay attention to candidates for lieutenant governor.

WDET Digital

Our Democratic and Republican candidates for governor have their running mates.

Do those picks make a difference for voters? Not really. At least, that’s what political watchers told MichMash last week.

Should you still pay attention to and care about these picks? Abso-freaking-lutely.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about why.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

This week, Democratic candidate for governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her running mate: Detroit native Garlin Gilchrist.

Last week, Whitmer’s Republican rival, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, selected Kent County Clerk and former state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto).

Neher says Gilchrist is an exciting up-and-comer in Michigan’s Democratic circles, especially in Detroit. He’s worked for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and he narrowly lost a bid to be Detroit clerk. He’s also something of a technology guru. He was national campaign director for MoveOn.org and he managed President Barack Obama’s social media campaign for his 2008 campaign.  

Cheyna Roth/MPRN

“He’s really an internet whiz kid and I think that’s what he brings to this ticket,” says Neher.

“That’s why Gretchen Whitmer thinks that he’ll be a big asset. Sort of that millennial power to mobilize people through social media and technology.” 

Roth says it’ll be interesting to see if Gilchrist proves us wrong from last week’s conversation.

Last week, Neher and Roth talked to political pundits who said the lieutenant governor pick usually doesn’t make or break the ticket — that people don’t vote for the running mate, and they really only have an impact if they do something harmful to the campaign. 

“It’s possible given Gilchrist’s experience, given his knowledge in how to mobilize and utilize social media, and the fact that he’s coming from Detroit, that he could actually have an impact on Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign in the long run,” says Roth. 

However, Neher says it might get tricky for the Whitmer-Gilchrist ticket given Gilchrist’s lack of experience. Lyons has several years in the state Legislature. Gilchrist would come in with no legislative experience. That has been a focus of Republican criticism of the pick. Neher says — whether or not that’s a problem for voters — it highlights one very big reason that people should pay attention to the lieutenant governor candidates. 

Cheyna Roth/MPRN

“I think one reason people really should pay attention to these picks is because these running mates, if they become lieutenant governor, are one heartbeat away from being the top official in the state of Michigan, running the state,” says Neher. 

“Let’s not forget that one reason we have a higher gas tax in Michigan is because Lt. Gov. Brian Calley cast the tie-breaking vote in the state Senate,” he continues. 

“So, the influence of the lieutenant governor isn’t just behind-the-scenes. They can come in and influence some of the most controversial state policy in the most direct way possible.”

All this means that it’s important to be an informed voter and really vet all the candidates – even the running mates.  

In the meantime, Roth says, “We’ll have to wait and see if tenure beats Twitter on this one.” 


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.