DECISION 2018 • The 94th Congressional State House of Representatives Candidate Forum

Posted In: Politics, State, Local, Candidates, Interviews,   From Issue 864   By: Robert E Martin

05th July, 2018     0

Whether you’re Republican Democrat, or Independent, 2018 is an important election year, as the Michigan governorship, all 148 seats in the state legislature, and other statewide offices are all up for election at the same time in 2018 for the first time in eight years.

The 94th Congressional District seat in the Michigan House of Representatives is currently occupied by Republican Tim Kelly, who was first elected to serve in November 2012 and re-elected to serve a third term in the 2017-18 session.  Because he is term limited, four candidates are vying for the position in the August 7th Primary.

Democrat Dave Adams is running un-opposed and three Republicans are seeking the seat: Rodney Wakeman, Steve Gerhardt and Rick Riebschleger, with the facing off against Adams in the November general election.

The 94th District encompasses part of Saginaw County including the city of Frankenmuth and the townships of Blumfield, Frankenmuth, Albee, Taymouth, Birch Run, St. Charles, Swan Creek, Thomas, Saginaw and Tittabawassee.

The Review submitted several questions to each of these candidates and trust you will find this Forum both informative and helpful in determining the candidate best capable of representing your interests in Lansing. All candidates responded to our Forum, with the exception of Rick Riebschleger.

Review:  Please explain how your educational background and experience negotiating within the political arena distinguishes you from your opponent to effectively serve as our State Representative.

Adams:   Education receives approximately 45% of the state of Michigan budget.  Having someone who has worked as a teacher and administrator in our public schools can bring some valuable insight to the budget/policy debates for this important area.  As a former township trustee, I also have local government experience, which will aid in advocating for local control on many issues.

Gerhardt: Of the four individuals running for this open seat, I am the only one elected and re-elected to public office. Also, I have had to address questions, concerns and complaints directly from tax payers both inside and outside of official meetings and office hours. In addition, I have worked with different board members with differing opinions on a number of issues over the last 18 years in order to come to a consensus on behalf of all the citizens of Saginaw Charter Township. These issues have ranged from purchasing, budgets and policies. We have been able to move Saginaw Township forward even in the roughest of times.

Wakeman: I am a 1984 graduate of Valley Lutheran High School and studied the Pre-Mortuary Science curriculum at Delta College, earning an Associate of Arts degree, and then graduated in 1988 from Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science, Detroit.  Since then, I acquired my Limited Life Insurance License to sell Prepaid Funeral Insurance and earned three post-professional voluntary continuing education certifications. Countless numbers of families in each of the 11 communities that make up 94th House District know me as a longtime funeral director and owner of Wakeman Funeral Home, Inc. in Saginaw. 

Politics is not foreign to me by any means.  My father, Harold Wakeman, served as Saginaw County Coroner into the early 1970s.  Before his death in 2008, he was a great mentor, father, community leader and teacher, helping me become the professional and community leader I am today.

My own political leadership began in 1994, winning the first of many elections as a member of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association (MFDA), the oldest association of funeral professionals in the country.  Today, I proudly serve as its President.  I have served over ten years on the association’s Board of Directors and over the past twenty years held positions on nearly a dozen committees, including Legislative, Audit and the Michigan Mortuary Response Team, a mass fatality preparedness cooperative between the State of Michigan and MFDA. 

I also have significant state level public leadership experience.  I was appointed twice by Governor Rick Snyder and confirmed by the Michigan Senate to serve two four-year terms on the Michigan Board of Mortuary Science, Examiners in the state licensing board overseeing all licensees in Michigan.  Serving as its Chairman since 2015, I have worked at the highest levels of our state government, including, directly with the Office of Attorney General (AG), Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing (CSCL), its Audit Section, and the Bureau of Professional Licensing (BPL) on matters involving formal complaints, investigations, compliance conferences and formal hearings, with direct input on determining appropriate sanctions.  I have also led reviews of Administrative Rules under the Occupational Code with multiple departments.  The reviews included eliminating rules that are duplicative, out-of-date or not supported by Code, causing operational redundancies and inefficiencies that waste time and taxpayer money.

Around the community, I am a lifelong member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church.  I have been President of the Valley Lutheran High School Foundation for the past 11 years, served on the Lutheran Education Advancement Plan implementation team to advance Lutheran education in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and am Past President of the Saginaw Lions Club, where I received the Lion of the Year Award.

I am endorsed by Michigan Jobs, Senator Ken Horn, Representative Ben Frederick, former Senator Roger Kahn, former Representative Jim Howell and former Representative and House Speaker Pro-Tem Larry Julian.

Review:   If you are an incumbent, what specific legislation have you authored that you are most proud of; and if you are a candidate seeking this office, what legislation are you advancing that will impact & improve our state & region?

Wakeman: When Michigan’s economy declined a decade ago, many workers and their families left the state.  As Michigan’s economy continues to strengthen, instituting policies to help Michigan families and to attract more businesses and families to Michigan are important.  One area that is seeing a resurgence in the amount of work available is in the trades.  However, business owners are finding it difficult to fill available jobs with qualified workers.  In a conversation I had with Scott who owns a trade business in Saginaw Township, he told me that he cannot find enough qualified workers for his increased business due to a worker shortage, which translates into lost revenue.

This is an opportunity for both Michigan and the trades. The reality is, every student does not fit the four-year college path.  A career in the trades can provide a very good living without the ever-increasing student loan debt of a four-year degree.  We need to address this shortage by introducing the concept of the trades to students at an earlier age and partnering with industry to help plan the best training path through apprenticeships and other programs.  I am a product of the apprenticeship program.  It is required training in my profession and it works well.

Adams: First we need to Re-write Michigan's tax code to promote business growth and create fairness with a progressive income tax. Secondly, we need to protect students and staff in our schools by providing school counselors, mental health services, and other security measures. Third, we must. put Michigan to work with increased revenue sharing to local governments for roads and infrastructure projects.

Gerhardt: With my background, I believe in promoting public safety and safer communities. There is a direct correlation between a safe community and economic development. Companies do not invest in areas where they feel their investment and employees are not safe and secure. It is important also that we keep the tax burden on our citizens low and for the State of Michigan government to learn to live within its means in order to keep the economic momentum we have been experiencing the last eight years going and accelerating forward. Also, access to high speed internet and technology/technical training will help our young people stay in the area and not move out of state for jobs and careers. I will be looking at legislation to promote these values.

Review: How would you best summarize your political philosophy in terms of how it distinguishes you from your opponent?

Gerhardt:  I consider myself a community minded fiscal conservative in that, I have been serving the citizens of my township and county for more than 33 years with the fire service, law enforcement support, community boards and as an elected official. I believe serving the public regardless of compensation is what you do living in our society. Giving of yourself in order to make the world a better place is to me easy, taking more than you give to others is not being a good steward.

Adams: I don't know my opponents’ political philosophy, but I don't look at this race as "running against someone".  Instead I believe we are all running because we want to serve the community.  I believe my ability to listen and work with all viewpoints, as well as a strong work-ethic, will serve our county and state well.

Wakeman: I am a fiscal conservative.  While I am not a politician, I am known throughout the 94th District as a trusted and respected funeral director and owner of our family’s 107-year-old business.  I also come into this election already having significant state-level experience.  As Chairman of our state licensing board, I have worked at the highest levels of our state government where I have been responsible for leading the task of reducing the regulatory footprint, while increasing department efficiency, thereby saving time and taxpayer dollars.

Adams:  I don't know my opponents’ political philosophy, but I don't look at this race as "running against someone".  Instead I believe we are all running because we want to serve the community.  I believe my ability to listen and work with all viewpoints, as well as a strong work-ethic, will serve our county and state well.

Review: Over the past several years, Michigan businesses received a collective tax cut of $5.2 billion to improve our state’s competitiveness; in turn, this burden was shifted to individual taxpayers who endured a $4.7 billion tax increase through the repeal of previous loopholes, reduction in tax credits for low-income families, and new taxes on pensions, which amounted to a per-person increase of $150 per year. Gasoline taxes increased 17% to pay for a partial road funding package approved in 2015; and a decade ago Michigan hiked the state income tax rate from 3.9% to 4.35% during. Severe state budget crisis, dropping it slightly to 4.25% in 2013. Moreover, from 2000 to 2010 Michigan workers’ wages rose only 15%, compared to 44% nationally.  What measures would you propose to advance greater relief to the middle class and working poor in Michigan?

Adams: Repeal the Pension tax.  Work to change the Michigan Constitution to install a progressive income tax.  Invest in training that will result in better paying jobs.

Wakeman:  The work that Governor Snyder and the state legislature has done over the past seven-and-a-half-years has significantly helped Michigan’s economy move away from the massive decline that begin in 2007, known as the ‘lost decade’, as many businesses, jobs and workers left the state in droves.

An important part of our comeback has been putting our state’s budget at the top of the priority list.  Too many times during the last administration our budget was held hostage as some final discussions were delayed until beyond the fiscal deadline of September 30, causing many parts of state government to shut down.  Since the budget has been given a top priority, Michigan’s economy has grown.

Michigan must also be able to compete with other states for new businesses, jobs and workers.  One way to do this is to remove the state income tax hike that occurred ten years ago, which was touted at the time as “temporary.” I would finally make it temporary and return the rate to 3.9%.  This will put money back into the paychecks of hard working Michigan families, making our state an even more attractive place to live and start a business.

Gerhardt:  Keeping corporate tax rates as low as possible in order to promote growth and thus increase available jobs. We need to be more competitive within the region with both lower taxes and less regulation to attract companies wanted to expand into the Midwest. This will enable Michigan to become an economic destination. We can grow the middle class in Michigan and raise up the working poor with better jobs and more available jobs.

Review:  The health of our communities and Michigan’s freshwater needs to be a top priority in Lansing, given that our state is facing fundamental questions about the quality and basic safety of our air & water.  What is your position on the Line 5 oil pipeline run by Enbridge under the Straits of Mackinaw. Economic damages from the rupturing of this line are estimated to exceed $6 billion, including nearly $700 million in costs for natural resource damages and restoration, and more than $5.6 billion in regional economic impacts to tourism, commercial fishing, municipal water systems, and coastal property values.

Gerhardt:  Without question, the concerns that you raise of a catastrophic failure would be a terrible event. It should be noted that we need to partner with the many stakeholders to determine what preventative measures that need to be in place and considered, up to and including the future status of Line 5.

Wakeman: Everyone in Michigan should expect to be able to draw clean water and breathe clean air.  Equally, measures already exist for the safe and reliable delivery of our important energy resources throughout Michigan.  Any disruption of the distribution of needed fuel will shake up the market, causing an immediate demand spike and increased prices.  Continuing to test and monitor safely without disruption is also being responsible to the people of Michigan who rely on the delivery of the energy.

Adams:   Line 5 should be replaced ASAP.  There are safer alternatives.

 

 

 

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