May 26, 2019

Northern Express Election Guide 2014

Oct. 19, 2014
The results are in"¦

Northern Express sent questionnaires to 16 state senate and house candidates from northern Michigan. We chose questions on issues we’ve followed over the last year:

- the divide between rich and poor

- the status of social tolerance for the LGBT community

- the implementation of the medical marijuana law

- gridlock in Lansing

- the state’s crumbling roads

Each candidate was emailed our questions, followed by a phone call to ensure the campaign had received the survey. Then another email was sent as deadline approached, asking once more for the candidate’s input. The results are in–at least from 11 of the campaigns.

In some cases, according to Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, candidates might not have responded because they are an incumbent and believe they have the race locked up.

Demas said certain politicians are in creasingly unresponsive to media surveys even though they are passing up free publicity.

"I do think that candidates are becoming more and more gun shy about stating their positions publicly," Demas said.

That might explain why Sen. Darwin Booher did not respond, for example.

Booher received 63 percent of the vote when he ran for his seat in 2010. Booher’s campaign has raised $183,198, according to his amended post-primary campaign disclosure summary. His challenger, Democrat Glenn Lottie, filed a waiver indicating he would raise and spend less than $1,000 in this election.

The race for the 101st House of Representative seat looks more competitive: Democrat Tom Stobie has raised $92,486 through this election cycle while incumbent Republican Ray Franz has raised $74,809. Stobie responded to our questionnaire, Franz did not.

We hope the following questions and answers help shed some light on the candidates and their positions.

STATE SENATE

37th District

Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce, Mackinac

REPUBLICAN WAYNE SCHMIDT


Northern Express: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Schmidt: Problems aren’t solved with partisan gridlock. It takes hard work, cooperation and pragmatism to address many of the issues we face here in northern Michigan. I have always had an open-door policy and have been willing to work with anyone to get things done for the people that I represent. When I go to Lansing I’m there to find solutions, not play politics.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Schmidt: The state needs to continue to improve how it spends its money. It is imperative that before looking into new revenue sources, we are certain that the state budget is prioritized effectively and we are getting the most out of the money already being spent on our roads and bridges. The plan that I put together, and which passed the House, did that while appropriating half a billion dollars annually in existing revenue toward roads.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Schmidt: I believe that amending the act to include sexual orientation would ultimately undermine the constitutional religious liberties of private business owners and, more broadly, taxpayers in Michigan. Without serious, significant and abiding effort to protect these rights, I do not think it should be changed.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Schmidt: Most importantly, I have and will continue to reform our state’s tax and regulatory systems to make northern Michigan and the UP a better place to grow a business and provide jobs. As a believer in offering a hand up versus a hand out, I have also supported changes to assistance programs, such as Medicaid and the EBT, to help people move out of poverty and become more self-sufficient.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Schmidt: I believe that the current laws on the sale of medical marijuana are appropriate; it is important that local governments have leeway in regulating dispensaries and law enforcement has clear and appropriate guidelines when dealing with cases of abuse. As for legalization, I still have too many concerns with limiting abuse, especially with drivers and by underage users, to consider it a good idea.

DEMOCRAT PHIL BELLFY


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Bellfy: I am opposed to compromise simply to "get something done" in Lansing. If the Republicans retain their majority status in both chambers, and keep the Governor’s seat, they can do whatever they want–as they’ve been doing for the past four years. The "deadlock" is ideological and I will never compromise my principles simply to overcome such obstructionism. I am fighting for the 99 percent, not the one percent.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Bellfy: I am opposed to any increase in taxes or fees to fix our crumbling infrastructure. All we have to do is repeal the $1.8 billion tax break given to Snyder’s business patrons–problem solved (and it might help with school funding and a reversal of the "pension tax," etc., too!).

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Bellfy: As a State Senator, I will advocate for an amendment to the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination against anyone for any reason. I am opposed to listing those "categories" that fall under a "protected class," which leads to "legal discrimination" against those "not listed" – all human beings should be "protected" against discrimination, period.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Bellfy: I have been fighting for economic and social justice for everyone for over 40 years, and I’ll continue that struggle in the legislature. I would work to raise the "minimum wage" to a "living wage." The concept of the "working poor" is simply not acceptable. So, I would also work to repeal the recent dramatic reduction of the earned income tax credit and for a repeal of the elimination of the per-child tax credit.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Bellfy: Answer to the first part of question: yes. As for the second part, if your question refers to "decriminalization" of small quantities of marijuana for personal use (that is: growing, using, transferring), I would support that legislation. But I am opposed to the state "legalizing" marijuana simply to raise revenue through taxation (as is currently done with the taxation of tobacco and alcohol).

35th District

Benzie, Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon, Wexford

REPUBLICAN DARWIN BOOHER

Booher, the incumbent, did not respond to the survey.

DEMOCRAT GLENN LOTTIE


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Lottie: I am a fence mender. I will try my hardest to work with the other side and, if need be, compromise when possible. Everybody has something special about them.

In other words, you have to figure out what makes them tick.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Lottie: I will sponsor a bill which will put a $25-and-up surcharge on every cubic yard of solid waste that is dumped in Michigan’s landfills and $2-and-up [surcharge] for every gallon of liquid waste, toxic or otherwise, injected into wells. This will generate more than enough money to pay for repairing our existing roads and building new ones. It will also reduce the amount of waste products coming into Michigan from elsewhere.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Lottie: Emphatically–yes! Bias is hatred. We need to eliminate it.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Lottie: At present, I am the president of Manistee County United Way. Every day we work with churches, food pantries, charitable organizations, etc. In the 35th Senate District (twelve counties) between 30 and 40 percent of the population live below the poverty level. Northern Michigan seems to be either ignored or forgotten by our government in Lansing. When I am the senator for this district, I will be the advocate for the poor.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan?

Lottie: As for medical marijuana, absolutely yes! In fact, doctors should be allowed to give it to their patients. Answer to the second part of the question: I have mixed feelings about this matter. I need time to research it.

STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

101st District

Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason

REPUBLICAN RAY FRANZ

Franz, the incumbent, did not respond to the survey.

DEMOCRAT TOM STOBIE


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Stobie: The problems facing Michigan need to have bipartisan solutions. I have a track record of working very well with non-partisan school boards. I will build relationships with representatives from both sides of the aisle–especially those from northern Michigan–and together we will find common sense solutions. Michiganders send us to Lansing to get results, not to play political games. Working together shouldn’t be just an empty slogan; it has to become a reality.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Stobie: We need to find a road-funding plan that doesn’t unfairly burden Michigan families and seniors. Big corporations, small businesses, families and seniors all rely on our roads, so we all have to pay our share. The bipartisan plan for emergency road repairs earlier this year was a good first step and it included penalties on overweight trucks, using better materials and requiring warranties. Raising taxes on families should not be a funding option.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Stobie: I’m against discrimination. I stand with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in believing that no one should have to live in fear that they could be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance. My values include that we should treat every human with dignity.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Stobie: The single best thing we can do to end poverty is to give our kids the best education possible. From my first days as a teacher here in northwest Michigan to my retirement as the superintendent of the Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools, that has been my focus. With a good education, kids can compete to enter the best colleges and find jobs in our community. Properly funding our schools helps end the cycle of poverty.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Stobie: I respect the decision of voters in 2008 to make medical marijuana available to qualified patients in need of palliative care. I also support the right of local communities to decide where, when and how patients can access it. Marijuana has been legalized in other states and I think it would be wise to see how those experiments work before we consider making changes here.

102nd District

Mecosta, Osceola, Wexford

REPUBLICAN PHIL POTVIN (INCUMBENT)


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Potvin: There is no "deadlock" in Michigan politics. We sit together and we work together for the betterment of all Michiganders. My seat on the house floor is located on the Democratic side since the Republicans have a 59 to 51 seat majority. Over 90 percent of all bills passed by the Michigan Legislature are bi-partisan votes.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Potvin: The Michigan House has already passed our long-term solution to the Michigan roads problem. We have changed the fixed gas and diesel fuel taxes from 18 cents and 15 cents to a 6 percent fuel tax and adjusted commercial registration fees and fines. The transportation dollars are dispersed to all via the Act 51 distribution formula, which ensures northern Michigan gets its share.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Potvin: No. We are one nation under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Potvin: We work together as a community to feed, clothe and house the poor.

Our local churches feed via community meals and clothes. Our service clubs do food distribution. Our schools offer breakfast, lunch and weekend meals sent home on Fridays via a backpack. Through our state health department, social and mental services are free and MSHDA housing is subsidized. Jobs are available for those able and willing to work via Michigan Works and temp agencies.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Potvin: Marijuana is a drug. It should be controlled by the state, distributed through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and sold at licensed pharmacies. No; its purpose is medical, not personal pleasure.

DEMOCRAT JOHN RUGGLES

Ruggles did not respond to the survey.

103rd District

Crawford, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Roscommon

REPUBLICAN BRUCE RENDON

Rendon, the incumbent, did not respond to the survey.

DEMOCRAT JAMES CROMWELL


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Cromwell: If the House and Senate would do the will of the people, there would be no gridlock! Pushing the special interest groups’ agendas down the throats of the people gets hard to swallow and gridlock helps to stop some of this. I have no special interest that I owe allegiance to. Our current representative, Bruce Rendon, votes for the tea party agenda no matter what would be good for the people in his district.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Cromwell: The roads could be fixed if the state would tax businesses again. The stimulus offered by the governor didn’t work to create jobs–so end the corporate welfare. The GOP wanted smaller government and this is the results of their efforts!

Federal money should be restored to the highway bills and fix our infrastructure and put workers back to work, doing it!

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Cromwell: Any civil rights bill will have to include sexual orientation. This should be protection for everyone’s rights.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Cromwell: The poor in my area need jobs. There are no incentives offered to businesses to move to the rural mid-Michigan area. A GM plant in Lake City, a Ford plant in Roscommon, a Honda plant in Skidway Lake–what a big difference this would make in our area! I retired from the Carpenters Union after 35 years. I had to travel all over the country to get my pension. Under the GOP, we suffer.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Cromwell: Marijuana should be made legal in Michigan!

104th District

Grand Traverse

REPUBLICAN LARRY INMAN


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Inman: I pride myself that, while serving 22 years as a Grand Traverse County Commissioner, I’ve gained the reputation of being able to compromise and come up with the best possible solution for our county. I have appointed Democrats to high positions in the county because I feel it’s important to have the most qualified candidate for the job. I will continue to work with all legislators on common sense decisions.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Inman: Michigan roads are in such poor condition they’re causing companies with quality jobs to look elsewhere, and directly affecting our economy. I’d love to say we could do it without raising taxes, but the fact is we may have to look into increasing the gas tax to repair our roads.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Inman: I do not favor discrimination and I look forward to addressing this issue as a state legislator.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Inman: I’ve been involved with Michigan Works for a number of years and our job retraining program for displaced workers has been very successful and is being considered as a model for the state by the governor. Additionally, equity in school funding attracts higher quality teachers and creates a more desirable environment for companies to invest locally and create more jobs.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Inman: Appointed by three governors to serve as the chair of the Community Corrections board, I’m familiar with the burden on our state’s budget regarding our high incarceration rates, many of those serving being non-violent offenders. I feel who individuals that suffer with extreme pain should have the opportunity for this as a medical treatment. The state should regulate the dispensary standards. The matter of legalization needs to be a citizen-driven process.

DEMOCRAT BETSY COFFIA


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Coffia: I have taken no money from either party or from special interest groups, meaning I am free to focus on the priorities of northern Michigan. I will work with legislators from the region on voters’ priorities.

I am knocking on thousands of doors in Grand Traverse County and what I’m hearing over and over–from independents, Republicans and Democrats–is to fund the schools, fix the roads and bring good paying jobs to the area.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Coffia: Financing road repairs must come from both smarter allocation of current funds and increased revenue. Michigan spends $2 billion annually on prisons, more than is spent on higher education. Reforming treatment of non-violent and mentally ill offenders would save taxpayer money. Additionally, the burden of raising revenue should be spread evenly to include those who cause the most wear and tear: a single 80,000-pound truck causes the damage of 5,000 cars.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Coffia: Yes. I support including sexual orientation in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Coffia: Serving our community as a Head Start social worker and a TCAPS elementary school volunteer, I saw firsthand poverty’s impact on children’s ability to learn and to test well. Research shows stress and poor nutrition from poverty can damage children’s brain function. I support free/affordable early childhood education and real K-12 support for all Michigan kids, preparing them for college, vocational and technical schools, and empowering them to give back to their community.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Coffia: Michiganders voted overwhelmingly in 2008 to give patients legal access to medical marijuana for pain management. I oppose restricting this access. Decriminalizing marijuana, as Grand Rapids has done, would let Michigan raise revenue through fines, rather than waste funds incarcerating non-violent offenders. In 2012, Michigan spent $10.5 million housing 303 prisoners for marijuana possession. Funding roads and schools is a more fiscally responsible use of taxpayer money. Alcohol prohibition failed. Criminalized marijuana has also.

105th District

Antrim, Charlevoix, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego

REPUBLICAN TRISTON COLE


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Cole: I have a long track record of working with others, being a constructive part of many diverse boards and committees in the community. Some of those committees include: president, Antrim County Farm Bureau; chairman, Antrim County Republican Party; MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council; and the Michigan Farm Bureau State Policy Development Committee.

I also worked with the current 105th district representative passing two pieces of legislation that passed with 100 percent unanimous bipartisan support.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Cole: We must focus on what services the state is constitutionally bound to provide and begin eliminating non-constitutional aspects of government until we can live within our revenue stream. Our economic engine runs on our roads, bridges and infrastructure. Prioritization and becoming better stewards of taxpayer dollars is the first step; people are taxed enough already. The economic impact of solving this issue will be astounding as jobs are created.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Cole: I am opposed to amending the Elliot Larson act.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Cole: The two pieces of legislation I helped pass, which eased commercial vehicle weight restrictions and eliminated building code restrictions for farm stands, have had a positive impact on our community. Freeing the individuals and businesses from over-regulation helps the economy flourish. This leads to more and better jobs and opportunities for self-empowerment and a reduction of poverty. Building reliance on government programs is not a sustainable model for a strong and vibrant state.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Cole: I think the current laws surrounding the use and prescribing/dispensing of marijuana for medical use are extremely confusing. This leads to frustration with law enforcement when they are following/enforcing state drug laws. I also question why all other prescribed drugs are "dispensed" from a pharmacy and marijuana is not.

DEMOCRAT JAY CALO


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Calo: I believe it’s important that people elect a representative that will develop solutions to the many problems this state faces. To get anything accomplished, we need someone who will work with both parties. This is true especially in the House of Representatives where members are nearly evenly split. I am well equipped to create common sense solutions working with Democrats and Republicans, whereas my opponent speaks as an ideologue who will not compromise.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Calo: I know how we can’t pay for it: by creating more regressive taxes like our state government has over the past four years. I don’t have the silver bullet, but I know where to start. We must look at the corporate tax structure and make sure everyone is paying their "fair share." This would be a win-win solution, because no one is going to benefit from sound roads and infrastructure more than the businesses.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Calo: Yes; our LGBT community needs to be protected from discrimination, as all other minorities are.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Calo: I would first want to remove barriers this legislature has put up for people who want to help. By removing tax credits for those who donate to homeless shelters and food pantries, charity has become less attractive. I would create more programs to assist these people, not barriers against helping these people.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Calo: Yes, there have been enough studies to show positive results for people whose illnesses are treated with marijuana. I would seriously consider making it legal in Michigan. There is a lot to be learned from the experiment going on in Colorado. The state is financially benefiting from the sale and taxing of marijuana. With tight restrictions in place, I believe Michigan could benefit in the same way.

107th District

Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Mackinac

REPUBLICAN LEE CHATFIELD

Chatfield, who won a hotly contested primary election against incumbent Frank Foster in what was widely considered a referendum on Foster’s support of gay civil rights, did not respond to the survey request.

DEMOCRAT JIM PAGE


NE: What will you do to work with your political opponents to break gridlock in Lansing?

Page: Deadlock? I thought the Republicans control both the house and senate, along with the governor’s office. The difference between the parties and the inability to compromise to solve problems is not going to be solved until we elect leaders who are willing to work for the common good for all the citizens of Michigan.

NE: The state will need to spend up to $2 billion to fix its roads over the next decade. How are we going to pay for that?

Page: A compromise between a budget that maximizes the current funds available and a tax system that has shared responsibilities.

NE: Should sexual orientation be included in the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act?

Page: Civil Rights should apply to all people.

NE: What would you do/have you done to help people who live in poverty in your district?

Page: Improve the vocational education system and make it available to more people. I support raising the minimum wage.

I would like to see more full-time jobs be made available to workers.

NE: Should Michigan make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients? Should marijuana be legal in Michigan altogether?

Page: There should be structured laws on the distribution of medical marijuana, as it is a controlled medication, the same as applied to all other controlled medications. I do not believe in legalizing marijuana.

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