Prepare to Vote: Government Transparency and the Candidates for Michigan Governor [VIDEO, TRANSCRIPTS]


Is governmental transparency YOUR issue?  Does what candidates say about how they would change the Freedom of Information Act help determine your vote in the August primary and November general elections?
WDET and our partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative recently interviewed most of the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor of Michigan and asked them about those issues.
Scroll down for videos and transcripts.

Other WDET Conversations and Reporting about FOIA:

You Are Guaranteed The Right to Public Records — But How Easy Is It Actually to Get Them?
Information Disparity: Local Governments Show Wide Variety in Access to Information
Want to Ask Your Local Government for Information? Here’s Help [MAP]

The DJC reporters asked about plans for increasing governmental transparency. Here’s how the candidates answered:

Democratic Candidates

Abdul El-Sayed

Abdul El-Sayed said he supports expanding FOIA’s reach in state government. ”The minute I take office I am submitting my entire administration to Freedom of Information Act accountability and would seek legislation that opens that kind of transparency across the Senate and the Governor’s office,” he said.

Read El-Sayed’s Full Answer

Shri Thanedar

Shri Thanedar said he would support having FOIA apply to the governor’s office. ”I will voluntarily do that and set an example of transparency. We absolutely must bring transparency and ethics,” he said.

Read Thanedar’s Full Answer

Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer said she also would open up the governor’s office to FOIA and cited the recent disclosure that a former state employee who faced scrutiny for how he handled the Flint water crisis has been contracted to do media training. ”The public and the press need tools so that they can get information,” she said. “We deserve to know. We deserve to know. The public does. And we have a right and a duty to make sure that they can.

Read Whitmer’s Full Answer

Republican Candidates

Brian Calley

Brian Calley said more agencies within state government should be subject to FOIA, and cited a recent proposal that the executive branch would have a higher standard than the legislature. “That is not good enough. They have to be equal standards,” he said.

Read Calley’s Full Answer

Patrick Colbeck

Patrick Colbeck said transparency legislation should focus on how state money is spent. “I think it’s the first priority,” he said. He also cautioned that FOIA could be used as a “political weapon, not as something to keep people accountable.”

Read Colbeck’s Full Answer

Jim Hines

Jim Hines said FOIA should extend to the governor and the legislature. ”When you don’t have transparency, you can kind of do what you want. Nobody knows, and human nature leads you down a path that’s not the best for citizens of this state,” he said.

Read Hines’s Full Answer

Bill schuette

Bill Schuette declined the Detroit Journalism Cooperative’s request for a video interview, citing scheduling interviews. Click HERE to learn more about him and WDET’s coverage of his campaign. 

Other Issues

Find out what the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial candidates think about transit, education, marijuana, auto insurance and redistricting.


Image credit: American Society of Newspaper Editors

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



This post is a part of 2018 Elections in Michigan.

On November 6, Michigan voters will decide who will be the state's new governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Some state House and Senate seats are up for grabs, and numerous initiatives are expected on ballots.

WDET is committed to providing honest, fair, inclusive coverage of Michigan's 2018 elections. Join us now and all the way to the voting booth to be an informed voter.


About the Author

Sandra Svoboda

Special Assignments Manager

Recovering Bankruptcy Reporter/Blogger looking forward to chronicling regional revitalization on-air, digitally and through community engagement.   Follow @WDETSandra

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