“I think she’s resonated because she’s invited labor to the table,” said Jon Brown, a construction worker and member of a local laborer’s union, citing Ms. Whitmer’s infrastructure plan.
Kevin Hertel, a Democratic state representative leading the party’s campaign to retake the chamber, said that having credible female candidates dwell on practical economic concerns has the advantage of appealing to two types of swing voters: those in affluent areas like Oakland County and western Wayne County, where women are in open revolt against the president. And those in blue-collar areas like Monroe, one of the party’s top takeover targets.
Labor leaders, like Mary Kay Henry, the S.E.I.U. president, say that a message focused on jobs, wages and health care has a shot at motivating voters, including many union members, who didn’t feel inspired to turn out for the last election.
“The most urgent problems in Michigan in working-class communities — whether white, black or brown — felt completely ignored in 2016,” Ms. Henry said. “It resulted in 10,000 votes left on the table just in Detroit.”
Michigan Republicans appear to sense that they’re losing some economic arguments, even though the state’s unemployment rate is low by historical standards. Earlier this month the Republican-controlled legislature passed bills phasing in a $12-per-hour minimum wage and requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, two labor priorities that would otherwise have appeared on the ballot this fall.
Republican leaders conceded that they did so because laws are easier to change if legislators enact them. “The Senate adopted the policy to preserve the ability for this legislature and future legislatures to amend the statute,” the State Senate majority leader, Arlan Meekhof, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“They are going to come back and gut it,” predicted Mr. Hertel, adding that Democrats plan to make an issue out of such maneuvering. “I think voters are extremely intelligent. They can see a political game for what it is.”