Less than a year after losing to incumbent Tim Walberg in the race to represent Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, Gretchen Driskell has announced her plans to run again in the 2018 election.
Driskell, who served as Saline’s mayor for 14 years before serving two terms in the state house, announced her candidacy Wednesday morning outside the Saline Rec Center.
In November 2016, in one of the most watched and most expensive races in Michigan, Walberg won with 55.1 percent of the vote. Driskell carried 40 percent of the vote.
So what’s changed? Driskell said voters want change.
“I spent a lot of time since January on the ground talking to people. Their issues are not being addressed. I think some people thought they were going to be addressed when they took a vote last fall and that’s not happening. There’s a lot of frustration and a need for change,” Driskell said.
Driskell charged that Walberg hasn’t listened to residents who call with concerns about health care, the environment or schools.
“He’s not listening to people. He’s really representing big business and wealthy people and he doesn’t really address issues of average American that is really trying to make a living and take care of their family, protect their environment and have good schools,” Driskell said. “People are concerned about the future of our country.”
Driskell spoke to about 30 people Wednesday morning before visiting Lansing for another campaign speech. In Saline, several supporters offered their support.
Among her supporters is Saline Mayor ProTem Linda TerHaar.
“I’ve seen Gretchen in action and I know how seriously she takes her commitment to her constituents. That’s something I value and that I miss right now with our current representative,” TerHaar said. “I think she would be much more focused on the good of everybody in the district.”
Fellow Saline City Councillor Christen Mitchell also supports Driskell.
“Gretchen made some excellent points today about investing in skilled trades, retraining, and apprenticeships. At the same time, she understands that funding K-12 education and universities is an investment for everyone in our communities,” Mitchell said. “Gretchen has the skillset to support all workers and will make a difference to every citizen in the seventh district.”
Republican Washtenaw County Commissioner Alicia Ping, who served on council when Driskell was Mayor, is also supporting Driskell.
“I’ve known Gretchen for almost 20 years. I’ve served with her and worked with her. She’s trustworthy. She listens to people. She works hard,” Ping said. “I don’t think there’s a better person who can run the district.”
Driskell was introduced by former Saline Mayor Mark Hopper outside the Rec Center, which was built 25 years ago thanks in large part to a community fundraising campaign spearheaded by Driskell. It was that campaign that began 25 years of public service.
In her 15-minute address, she spoke about the need for finding good-paying jobs so people could stay in their communities. She also spoke about the need to fund vocational training and retaining initiatives.
She said that people are scared by Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
“(Walberg) stood up behind (Republican) leadership to vote for that health care bill that actually raises premiums for everyone, raises premiums for older Americans and raised premiums for pre-existing conditions,” Driskell said. “It’s not fair. It’s not good for our working families.”
She was perhaps at her best when she spoke about protecting the Great Lakes and people’s drinking water.
She recalled a situation several years ago when Toledo residents descended upon Saline’s grocery stores to buy all the bottled water because the algae blooms made their tap water undrinkable.
“And what’s happening in DC? We’re talking about cutting the EPA. We’re talking about cutting Great Lakes restoration initiative. We’re not getting the representation we need to protect our most valuable resource – water,” Driskell said. “We have in Flint tap water that is polluted and poisoning people. That’s a problem that’s not just in Flint. Across the country we have not invested in our water and sewer infrastructure. And government has a role in that.”
Driskell’s campaign manager is Amy Friedman, who was field manager for Joe Ossoff’s campaign in the special election for the Georgia Sixth Congressional District. Friedman also worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Iowa and Maryland.
For more on Driskell’s campaign visit www.votegretchen.com or email [email protected].