5th Congressional U.S. House Race Pits a Career Politician Against a Farmer and a Visionary Businessman, Teacher, and Environmentalist

    icon Oct 21, 2010
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Michigan’s 5th Congressional District includes the areas of Flint, Saginaw and Bay City and come November 2nd will pit incumbent Democrat Dale E. Kildee against Republican challenger John Kupiec and Green Party candidate Matt de Heus, of Bay City.

Kildee was born in 1929 and is 81-years old, serving as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives since 1977.  Born in Flint, he served as member of the Michigan State House from the 81st district from 1965-74, having spent 45-years in political office.  When it comes to the notion of acting as a ‘career politician’, they don’t come any more entrenched than Kildee.

Republican challenger John Kupiec has had no career in politics. He owns and operates a 400-acre crop farm and labels himself a ‘Patriot’, noting on his website that if you “want to fix Washington, just put ten farmers in there.”

Green Party and 3rd Party Challenger Matt de Heus was born in 1965 and has lived in Michigan the majority of his life. Currently employed as an instructor in the Chemical Processing Technology program at Delta College.  He has built a solid track record of success in both the private & public sectors, moving from classroom to manufacturing floor to boardroom and back again, making him perhaps the most unique candidate for office out of this fold.

His biggest successes coincide with our region’s areas of greatest need – energy, employment, education, and the environment. Spending most of his career in the former Burmah Castrol group, he has experience conducting business and managing projects in 45 countries, including a 5-year assignment in corporate development in the United Kingdom.

Review: Please give us some background and a summary of your civic involvement.

Matt de Heus: I was born on May 10, 1965 in New Jersey.  I moved to Michigan when I was six months old and have lived in the State for the majority of my life.  Currently, I am employed an instructor in the Chemical Processing Technology program at Delta College.
At present I sit on the board of two Michigan non-profits, Memories (which focuses on foster children) and Michigan Greenhouses.  I am the Chairman of the Bay County Green Party and a lifetime member of the ACLU.  I am a member of various professional organizations, ranging from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers to the Mid-Michigan Songwriters Guild.  Over the last six years I have also served as a youth basketball coach.

Dale Kildee: Did not respond.

John Kupiec: Did not respond.

Review: What are the personal qualities and your position on key issues such as the economy, our environment, and health care, that you feel cause you to stand out from your opponents?

Matt de Heus: I have often described myself as an engineer by training, a factory rat by nature and a businessman by experience.  That combination allowed me to make the jump into education and it provides me with a good foundation as I seek public office.

A return to a manufacturing-based economy is the only way we are going to reverse the decade long decline in our State’s economy.  I am the only candidate in this race with significant manufacturing experience, having worked over two decades in a variety of industries, from specialty chemicals to foundries.  I’ve worked here and abroad, in the private sector and in the public sector, in big corporations and little businesses I started myself.  I worked my way up from the factory floor to senior roles in engineering, production management, strategic planning and mergers / acquisitions.  Basically, I should be able to see eye to eye with business leaders, as I have been in their shoes.  More than any other candidate in this race, I can “walk the walk” when it comes to putting people to work and making something out of nothing.

In terms of the environment, my first management role was as the Environmental Director for a medium sized paint company.  I personally implemented many of the early EPA and OSHA programs, like Worker Right to Know and emissions reporting.  Currently, I am in discussions with local groups concerning the clean up of the Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw and Tittabawasee Rivers.   I grew up “Up North” and value the natural resources of this state a great deal.  They are one of the main reasons that we have maintained a high quality of life, even as our standard of living has declined.

In terms of health care, I am in favor of a single payer system.  Our health care “crisis” is really a “billing problem. “  We have enough money in the system, as we spend more money on health care than any other country in the world.  We don’t have a quality problem, as we have the best doctors and hospitals in the world.  Our problem is the concept of insurance.  You insure a motorcycle.  You insure a house – things you can replace with cash.  The Constitution says the U.S. will provide for the general welfare of its citizens.  Every other modern country in the world offers health coverage as part of its package of public services.  We should too.  And if you take a few hands out of the cookies jar, we can afford to do it.

The other thing I would like to state on the topic of health care is that I think we need to address the working conditions experienced by nurses and patient care staff in hospitals.  Consolidation of roles, constant cost cutting, onerous hours and restrictive work rules all lead to burn out, turnover and a lack of job satisfaction for too many of our front line health care professionals.

Dale Kildee: Did not respond.

John Kupiec: Did not respond.

 Review: Do you offer any proposals for education reform, either at the K/12 or higher Ed levels?

Matt de Heus: The issue of Education seems to bring out as much frustration as any issue that we have discussed with the parents and taxpayers of this region.  My feelings on the topic could be summarized in a pretty straightforward fashion:

  1. Local control yields the best outcomes
  2. Synergy by consolidation is a myth
  3. Out funding mechanisms are broken
  4. Savings through consolidation are a myth
  5. Education is a life long process

In education, smaller is better.  The more personal the responsibility, the better the outcome.  I’ve have seen a lot of businesses cases that include projected savings by consolidation and they very rarely live up to their billing.  Stable funding, budgeted well in advance of the school year, will go a long way in making better outcomes possible.

We also need to realize that education is not simply done at high school graduation.  Many of my current students are mid-career and back at school, training for a new job.  We need quality options at all levels of education to keep our workforce sharp and our economic prospects bright.

Dale Kildee: Did not respond.

John Kupiec: Did not respond.

Review: Would you make any changes in the state tax structure or state budget to prevent our annual budget crisis of recent years?

I would require balanced budgets at the Federal and State levels.  We are accumulating debt at an astronomical rate.  And here’s the real problem:  Our national debt of approximately $13 trillion is approximately the same size as our annual economy and, more alarmingly, about the same size as our money supply.  Basically, we have structured a situation where we will never be able to pay off our debts.  Our transition from creditor to debtor nation is one of the main reasons our economy has sunk into a rapid decline.
The main thing I would like to see us do is transition from income to consumption taxes, both on the individual and on corporations.  There should be no penalty on productive activity, and that’s what an income tax accomplishes.  By switching to graduated consumption taxes, will instead base your tax on the resources you consume.  Rich people buy more, so they will automatically pay more taxes.  And if they choose to save instead, that will provide stable investment capital for others.

Dale Kildee: Did not respond.

John Kupiec: Did not respond. 

Review: Are you in favor of the proposal to convene a new Constitutional Convention in Michigan; and if so, why?

Matt de Heus: No.  It will be too costly – between $30 and 50 million.  Also, we don’t have a lot of time to write the rules, so it will be a process dominated by special interests and every term limited political crony the state has to offer.  If we need change to the document, we have shown the ability to amend it via the ballot box.

Dale Kildee: Did not respond.

John Kupiec: Did not respond.

Review: A State of Michigan mineral rights auction last May opened an unprecedented amount of acreage to the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas – a little regulated and immensely controversial technique that has been linked to massive ground water contamination in states ranging from Colorado to Kentucky.   More acreage is set for auction in October.

Current legislation exempts regulation of this practice, as well as identifying the chemicals, from regulation under The Halliburton Loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act.  While the State of Michigan only reaped $178 million in revenue on the May action, the Encana Corporation reaped net income of $1.8 billion on revenue of $11.1 billion in 2007.        

Are you in favor of placing a moratorium on these land auctions and would you support legislation to either ban hydraulic fracturing or make the companies utilizing the practice pay for 24-hour monitoring by State regulators?

Matt de Deus: If you have seen the documentary “Gasland,” you know this process has some pretty scary downsides.  If the idea of having flammable drinking water in your community bothers you, you need to be worried about hydro-fracking.  I firmly believe the practice and any variations should be banned.

The income from this auction reaped a small windfall for the State of Michigan.  Many in the business community trumpet the idea that there is natural gas locked in the bedrock under our State as an opportunity. I wonder how many people had the same reaction I did when they saw the story and the accompanying map that showed the northwest counties involved - right smack in the middle of one of the few thriving tourist destinations in this State.  So yes, I would like to see a moratorium on the auctions that will lead to additional drilling in the northwest corner of our State.

Dale Kildee: Did not respond.

John Kupiec: Did not respond

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