By Aimee Bingham Osinski firstname.lastname@example.org
After attending a stop on Driskell’s District 7 listening tour, I was able to interview Driskell over the phone. I started asking questions that she felt deserved a more in depth, in person interview. Today, I was able to stop by her office and have a chat. I say chat because that’s exactly what our conversation turned into. The first topic I brought up was her nickname, which I only know because John Hansen clued me in at the Dexter Forum. I said,” so, you’re known as the Dragon Slayer.” She laughed a bit and gave me the background on her nickname. As mayor she worked with a state rep that ran as a moderate, but took a more hardline rightwing stance once elected. She explained that they were on friendly terms, but when he refused to take her calls as mayor of Saline, she got frustrated. She needed to work with him to accomplish the things the people in her town wanted to accomplish. At that point, the Democrats were looking for someone to run against him for the state house seat. So she ran and when she won a rep approached her and said, “oh so you’re the dragon slayer.”
The entire story speaks to Driskell's commitment to serve those she represents. She didn’t understand why he refused to take her calls. She believes that fundamentally, regardless of party, elected officials must work together to accomplish goals. She also stated that she has an obligation to listen to all constituents, no matter if they vote for her or her opponent.
I asked why she opted to run against Walberg a third time, as I’d been under the impression that after 2016, she would not be running for the 7th district again. She nodded her head and stated she’d been constantly running since 2012. She explained that she put a lot of things on hold and used her time off to focus on things for herself, finally. She is finishing her masters degree in Public Policy and as a part of her educational work, did projects in different parts of the 7th district. She saw the need for a leader that is truly in touch with what the district needs and Gretchen believes she is that person. During her time off, she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and spent a lot of time with family and friends she hadn’t seen or been able to spend time with in years. Gretchen’s decision to run was spurred by her feeling of obligation to serve. She noted that it’s an election year and she believes that voter turnout will be bigger and her proven ability to lead and be nonpartisan will be an asset in the election.
I asked her about the cost of prescription drugs. She stated quickly that prescription drug costs need to be lowered now. Driskell explained that campaign finance reform needs to happen, so that politicians focus on people over profits. She suggested that I, “follow the money,” and compare votes by the incumbent with large donors, utilizing the open secrets website. She shared a story about her first stop on her listening tour. Gretchen said her first stop was at a coffee shop. She told me she asked the barista taking her order what her concerns were. The girl related a story about her friend losing prescription drug coverage and not being able to financially make it work. Her friend ultimately passed away.
I asked Gretchen about mental health care. She was back from attending a meeting with the Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan. The Center provides therapy, counseling, mother infant groups, financial counseling and divorce education and support, job coaching and help to women on a sliding scale. She told me 180 people are currently waiting for therapy and it’s the biggest wait they've ever had. She agreed that mental health care is in a crisis situation. She stated there aren’t enough beds or doctors and that the federal government needs to be involved. She brought up the veteran suicide rate and then stated the farmer suicide rate is also really high and an epidemic with dairy farmers. I discussed the health and safety millage that passed in Washtenaw County, and told her some of the funds are being used to bring services to Western Washtenaw County. She was happy to hear that news, but the mental health crisis is something she’d like to see the Federal government involved in addressing.
The last two questions I received surprised me. The first was regarding sanctuary cities. The man mentioned Ann Arbor and asked about state’s rights versus Federal rights. Initially, there was confusion over whether the issue was immigration or the 2nd amendment, but once I clarified Ann Arbor, Gretchen was thoughtful for a moment and admitted that she doesn’t know enough about the issue to take a stance. She’s not sure about the law regarding ICE and local departments working with ICE. She’d like to do more research prior to giving an answer and stating a position. The final question I received was regarding Asian Carp. She stated without hesitation that protecting our waterways is a priority for her . She spoke of the PFAS in the Huron River Watershed and how fishing is a way of life for Michiganders and PFAS need to be regulated. She did state that Walberg voted against protection from PFAS, which made her shake her head.
Gretchen is hosting a fundraiser in Chelsea at the Chelsea Ale House Monday the 24th from 6:30-8pm. For more information email email@example.com.
I will make every attempt to interview Walberg and provide him the same opportunity to share his views. I was able to provide the interview with Gretchen due to her willingness to be accessible to me.