Opinion

She’s running for the House — and hates every minute of it

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(This story has been updated to correct a reporting error on the district in which Emily Dievendorf is running.)

Why is Emily Dievendorf running for the state House?  

It’s a valid question as she makes herself a cup of coffee shortly after 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in June. 

It’s five weeks to the Democratic primary, and you’d never know she’s a political candidate. She’s not wearing a campaign T-shirt. She’s not wearing a campaign button. There’s no lawn sign leaning against a wall. No “vote for me” fliers spread out on the table. 

A leader in Lansing’s civil rights movement, Dievendorf isn’t planning to knock doors from dawn to dusk today. No walk lists ready to go. Her phone isn’t blowing up. No volunteers buzzing in and out the door. 

No, Dievendorf seems perfectly content showing me around her new bookstore on Ionia Street, near the Capitol Complex. 

Remember where Belen’s Flower Shop used to be downtown? It’s called Resistance now. There are books about the struggles of LGBTQ folks, Black people and other marginalized communities. 

Love what she’s done with the place. Looking at beautiful renovations of this historic storefront is worth the visit itself. 

It’s been her labor of love since a motorcycle plowed into her a couple of years ago. 

Dievendorf was demonstrating with allies in front of the Capitol. They were crying out about George Floyd, systemic racism and defunding the police.  

Agitated counter-protesters were blowing down Capitol Avenue in front of their mural painted on the street. Some in trucks. Some in vehicles. Others in motorcycles. 

They were speeding on purpose. They were showing off their firearms on purpose. Their angry shouts made that clear. 

Dievendorf was by the cones city officials used to block off a lane and a half for protesters who were helping paint artist Ferrin Mitchell’s Black Lives Matter mural on Capitol Avenue.

One motorcyclist took intimidation to the next level. He swerved into the cones. 

It took months for the 43-year-old to recover. Actually, she still is recovering. Two and a half fractures and a severe concussion later, she is only now walking more than a block.  

Her wrist still doesn’t bend right. Bright lights bother her. Great care at the University of Michigan is helping with the PTSD. 

The civil settlement helped birth her nonprofit bookstore. Selling her house helped, too.  

The civil rights activist wasn’t going away after this violent attack. No, she came back with a bookstore. 

It’s her new safe place for those from marginalized communities. It’s a place people can learn about others. Understand their differences. Find out where they coming from.  

“I built this place to pursue some justice, some justice for communities impacted by discrimination and bias,” she said. 

She isn’t getting rich from this venture. If you’re dedicating your life to advocacy, that’s never the goal.  

So, it leads back to the question at hand.  

Why is Emily Dievendorf running for the state House?  

At this point in her life, putting her name on the ballot seems like the last thing she would be doing.  

She’s not a politician. She only tried for the Lansing City Council in 2015 because then-Mayor Virg Bernero wanted someone to take out Councilmember Carol Wood. 

It didn’t work. Honestly, it might not work this time.  

The powers-at-be are coalescing behind former Grand Ledge basketball standout Jon Horford. A young DeWitt attorney named Logan Byrne is giving it a go, too. 

With these being the choices in the new 77th House District that covers Lansing north of the Grand River, Dewitt and Grand Ledge, Dievendorf and her circle of activists wanted another option.  

They want someone who talks the talk. 

They don’t want someone susceptible to being another tool of monied interests. They don’t want someone obsessed with political self-preservation. 

They want someone literally willing to risk everything for the downtrodden minority populations. Someone like … . 

“I hate everything about this,” she said. “There’s nothing about this that I’m enjoying.” 

But the former executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Michigan loves the idea of digging into public policy. She loves the idea of helping people in her community. 

If advancing that cause and serving her constituents makes her a one-termer, oh, well.

The bookstore is only a step. The work needs to be done. Now more than ever. 

That’s why Emily Dievendorf is running for the state House. 

Emily, Dievendorf, state, house

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