LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News) – Several of her Democratic caucus members erupted in whistles and applause as Sen. Winnie Brings (D-Grand Rapids) approached the media after a closed meeting Thursday – this time, as Michigan’s first-ever female Senate majority leader starting in 2023.

In the last 63 years, there have been three Democratic majority leaders of the Michigan Senate. The most recent one was Westland Democratic Sen. William Faust, who was the chamber’s majority leader until Republicans took the Senate in 1984.

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Conservative lawmakers have steadily held a Senate majority until voters provoked a new shift on Tuesday, with Democrats securing 20 out of 38 state Senate seats for 2023.

Senator-elect Sam Singh, the former House minority leader, will be taking on the role of Senate majority floor leader in 2023. In a statement, Singh said, along with Brinks and the rest of the chamber’s Democratic caucus, he looks forward to “fighting for Michiganders from all walks of life” and that “the folks in our state deserve nothing less.”

“We’ve got 40 years of pent-up policy,” Brinks said, illustrating there will be a continued focus on ensuring a strong economy for the state, making sure education systems are strong and making certain high school graduates have opportunities to advance their credentials and to build a life in Michigan.

She also said Democrats will echo the issues that voters resoundingly approved on the ballot.

“So affirming reproductive rights, affirming people’s ability to live their authentic selves . . . so we will be a state where equality is valued,” Brinks said. “That’s just a taste of some of the things that we’re talking about already – I’ll guarantee you they’re gonna be in the mix.”

After Democrats secured a majority of seats in the state Senate, 20 out of 38, and the House with 56 out of 110 seats, one policy item considered to be up for repeal is Michigan’s Right-to-Work status. Right-to-Work was signed by former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013, prohibiting worker contracts from requiring union membership and paying union dues or fees as a condition for employment.

When asked if repealing “Right to Work” was on the table, Brinks said “sure, all of the issues are on the table.”

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“All of the things that we’ve been talking about for a long time are on the table. I think the important thing to remember is we value workers, and they deserve their fair share for the economic productivity that they helped create,” Brinks said.

In another part of the Capitol, Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), who was selected by his caucus members to be Senate minority leader in 2023, said he thinks the possibility of removing “Right to Work” is a bad idea.

“I think it could go in the wrong direction. Just talk to any economic development folks. If she’s serious about developing our economy, then it’s about preserving some of these labor reforms that Governor Snyder and the Republican Legislature passed,” Nesbitt said. “If she’s serious about site development and serious about investing here in the state, then we got to be serious about saying we’re open for business and not closing down for business.”

Nesbitt expressed that if “Right to Work” is repealed, it would be unfortunate for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who ran this year on developing Michigan’s economy.

Another unique aspect for next year involves some of the Senate Democrats’ tightest races, especially in the case of Sen.-elect Veronica Klinefelt and Sen.-elect Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores). The two ran in Macomb County districts, where Democratic ad spending surpassed $8.5 million and Republican ad spending exceeded $5.3 million across the two different races.

Klinefelt – who ran against Republican incumbent Sen. Michael D. MacDonald (R-Sterling Heights) in the 11th Senate district – had an ad commemorating her for calling out corruption within her own party, stating she places “taxpayers ahead of politics” and was “tough enough to take on the Lansing politicians” and eliminate retirement taxes.

Hertel – who ran against House Education Chair and Republican Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.) – had an ad with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, a Democrat, stating that Hackel and Hertel shared the ability to productively collaborate with Republicans to “get the job done.”

“I stood up to my own party to give working people a tax cut and to support our police,” Hertel said in the $221,677 ad-purchase titled “Brings People Together.”

When asked about the campaign promises candidates made to be moderate and independent-thinkers, Brinks said “I think you’re going to see policy that both improves lives and is popular with people all around the state, and there’s a lot of things that can be done that will meet that criteria.”

As for future tax cuts, Brinks told MIRS “you’re getting way ahead of me.”

“I don’t even know what the budget’s going to look like, what the Governor is gonna propose and what kind of things we’re going to need to pay for that we don’t have enough money for…we’ll get into all the details as we get going – but I can’t answer that right now,” Brinks said.

Brinks, the daughter of dairy farmers and Dutch immigrants, presently serves as minority vice chair of the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee.

Brinks initially came to the Legislature in 2013 as a House member, after defeating incumbent Rep. Roy Schmidt 52.1% to 27.3% as a write-in candidate. Schmidt was connected to a political controversy when the Grand Rapids Republican lawmaker switched parties before the 2012 election filing deadline and then cut a deal with a friend of his nephew to run as a phantom candidate in the General Election.

“It’s very gratifying to be here. It’s been a very long journey, full of a lot of hard work. I’ve been through some really tough election cycles and election races personally. It gives me a very good taste of what our members have gone through, and I feel very prepared to lead having watched a number of leaders in the past – both minority and majority,” she said. “I come out of the nonprofit world, and I’m a very collaborative leader. I like to have a lot of high quality voices in the room.”