Oakes, D-Saginaw, has been state representative of the 95th District for more than three years. She officially announced Monday, Feb. 24, that she will not seek reelection to that seat, instead pursuing election to the State Senate.
"Like all of us, my journey began long before I was born," Oakes said.
"My father, James Erwin Sr., was born in Henderson, Texas, in December of 1924. And my mother, who I'm so happy ... to have here with me today, Maggie Erwin, was born in Yazoo, Miss., in June of 1936."
During the campaign announcement at the Saginaw County Governmental Center, the state lawmaker paused with emotion as she talked about growing up under the strong influence of her parents. Her mother attended the event, in support of the youngest daughter.Oakes' parents came to Saginaw during the Great Migration to the region in hopes of building a better life for themselves and their families, she said.
"My parents, of course, are my heroes," Oakes said.
Resources 'shipped out'
James and Maggie Erwin met and raised their family in a neighborhood on Saginaw's East Side, their daughter said.
"I never thought I would see the day where a girl from Ninth and Tuscola would be elected for positions to represent parts of Saginaw County," Oakes said.
She said she had a good childhood, during which she remembers being able to walk through her neighborhood "without fear" both day and night.
"I remember those times very fondly," Oakes said. "It was a very different time."
She said that, over time, jobs, resources and opportunities have been "shipped out of" neighborhoods like hers.
Oakes said her mission in the state Legislature has been and would continue to be to fight to bring those resources back to places like Saginaw. She said that help can come in the form of tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families, low-interest loans for Main Street businesses, new links between job training and local business and restoration of state education funding.
"We can do something," Oakes said. "My vision for Michigan is one where we can all come together, collectively, to pass common-sense legislation to affect change regardless of our beliefs or differences."