Michigan voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, November 8, for the 2022 midterm elections. One of the races on the ballot is Michigan’s attorney general. Candidates include incumbent Dana Nessel and her Republican opponent Matthew DePerno.
Keep reading to learn the candidates’ answers to the questionnaire they received from WDET.
Dana Nessel – Democrat
Why are you the best candidate to be the State of Michigan’s attorney general?
I am the best candidate to be Michigan’s AG because I am committed to serving all residents as the People’s Lawyer, with a focus on safeguarding consumers and protecting the voting, reproductive and civil rights of Michiganders. My top priorities also include fighting for our most vulnerable — including women, children, and seniors — and enacting policies that reduce gun violence and help keep our communities safe.
My office has led two of the biggest sexual abuse investigations in the country, which involve clergy members and the Boy Scouts; it’s extremely important to me to aggressively prosecute rape, sexual assault and domestic violence cases while establishing better resources for crime victims. We’ve netted a record number of convictions in our clergy abuse investigation, taking dangerous predators off the streets.
I’ve also established a number of new divisions in my department: the first-of-its-kind unit investigating hate crimes and domestic terrorism, as well as units devoted to robocalls and other scams, elder abuse, conviction integrity, payroll fraud, organized retail crime, and PFAS mitigation.
I’ll continue to hold accountable powerful interests — such as price-gougers, corporate polluters, and drug companies that overcharge patients for vital medications — when they harm Michigan residents. I’ll enforce equal pay for equal work laws, and work to enact common-sense gun safety measures. I secured a record settlement from opioid manufacturers and will ensure those funds are spent in local communities to combat substance misuse disorder. I’m also eager to continue my initiatives offering people a path to a better future through my restorative justice work, the new Job Court program, and driver’s license restoration and expungement fairs.
If re-elected, how do you plan to balance your role as chief law enforcement officer in the state of Michigan with your role as its chief legal advisor?
I provide the best advice I can to client agencies within state government, as well as various state boards and agencies, and our department also handles certain criminal trials and appeals.
We vigorously pursue cases that fit the mission of specific units within the department, such as the payroll fraud, hate crimes and domestic terrorism, and elder abuse units, or when counties request our help, in multi-jurisdictional cases, or those that require resources that are not available at the local level.
I created additional new units in the department, such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph, so we can be as aggressive as possible in enforcing the law to make sure the public is safe while also providing legal advice to state entities. I’m happy to say that conflicts have been exceedingly rare and achieving balance between those two tasks has not been an issue.
Do you believe there are integrity concerns with Michigan’s election process?
In any election, there are bad actors who seek to defraud and undermine the system, and I charge them when appropriate. However, Michigan’s elections are set up to be decentralized in order to help avoid such attempts at exploitation. We use paper ballots and the process includes many layers of review before winners are certified. Even if election fraud is attempted, it’s very rare that the perpetrator is able to pull it off because with our system of multiple checks and balances, they get caught. When they are able to pull it off, it happens at such a small scale that it doesn’t tend to impact results. We should always be vigilant, but we generally have safe, secure, and fair elections in Michigan.
Do you believe the rights of the LGBTQ+ community are being threatened? If so, what would you do to protect them?
I do feel there is a dangerous strain of homophobia being pushed in some corners of Michigan in an attempt to create a wedge between voters — one that, absurdly and without evidence, paints hardworking teachers as groomers and endangers marginalized kids who already face a much higher risk of suicide.
However, I have spent my career fighting to protect LGBTQ+ rights. My DeBoer v Snyder case eventually became part of Obergefell v Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court case that gave all Americans the right to marriage equality, and I’m extremely proud to have played a part.
Earlier this year, I personally argued the Rouchworld v MDCR case in front of the Michigan Supreme Court and won. As a result, LGBTQ+ residents of Michigan are now protected from discrimination under the state’s civil rights law, meaning for the first time in state history, they won’t experience barriers to employment, housing, education, or public accommodations and services because of who they are or who they love.
Does Michigan need criminal justice reform? If so, what kind of reforms would you support?
Michigan needs a tough but smart approach to criminal justice in general, and that includes needed reforms. I am very proud of my new Job Court initiative, which allows eligible non-violent defendants to be placed in a job that comes with a living wage and benefits. After a year, if they successfully complete the program, their charges are dropped and they walk away with new skills. It helps lower recidivism while offering hope for a better future.
I work with schools to implement restorative justice practices to help end the school-to-prison pipeline, and host expungement fairs that offer free legal aid to those eligible to have their criminal records expunged under the Clean Slate Act. I also created a public integrity unit to hold accountable members of law enforcement who trample the rights of the residents they’re supposed to be serving, and a conviction integrity unit that works to free people who have been wrongly incarcerated.
Matthew DePerno – Republican
Matthew DePerno did not respond to our questionnaire. You can see more information at DePerno’s official campaign website.