Get to know your candidates for State House - Kathy for Michigan
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Get to know your candidates for State House

Get to know your candidates for State House

With the Aug. 7 primary election a stone’s throw away, and with incumbent Curt VanderWall (a Republican from Ludington) vacating the State House seat that represents Michigan’s 101st District (serving Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee, and Mason counties), we submitted the following questions to four candidates vying to be our next state representative in Lansing. The Republican candidates facing each other in the upcoming primary are longtime WTCM radio host Jack O’Malley and Ludington newcomer Carolyn Cater—with registered nurse and Empire resident Kathy Wiejaczka vying for the Democratic nomination against Benzie County Drain Commissioner Edward Hoogterp. The general election is Nov. 6. Look for more Glen Arbor Sun coverage of the key issues, and interviews with the candidates, in our pages and on our website this fall.

Glen Arbor Sun: Why are you running for State House? And why as a [Republican or Democrat]?

Jack O’Malley (Republican): I have been in broadcasting for almost 40 years, 34 of those at WTCM 103.5 and TV 9&10 here in northern Michigan. Over those decades I have listened to the people of the 101st. I know who they are and what concerns them. I have never run for office before and only recently decided that I wanted to continue to serve and do what is right by the people of the region by going to Lansing. Common sense and good communication skills will lead my efforts. I am running because I feel that I am at a point in life with experiences and skills that I can use to relate to and represent the people of Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee, and Mason counties. Why as a Republican? In a two-party system, I am a conservative person. The GOP is my party.

Carolyn Cater (Republican): I’m running for State House because my state capitol is messed up and my neighborhood is getting consistently worse over the last 11 years. I’m running as a Republican because it is a heck of a lot better than being a communist, socialist Democrat. I’m a Republican because I am pro-life and defend our United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and my Second Amendment right to fight back against tyranny. Two major platform differences.

Kathy Wiejaczka (Democrat): Looking at the votes coming out of Lansing, I have become increasingly concerned about my patients, students, and community. These votes reflect not the needs of the people but rather wealthy special interest groups like the Koch Brothers, NRA, and Betsy DeVos. As a registered nurse, I have seen my patients and students adversely affected due to the lack of quality, affordable healthcare and runaway prescription drug pricing. It is a natural transition from caring/serving my patients and students to serve this district in Lansing. 

Edward Hoogterp (Democrat): I’m doing this because I want the state of Michigan to pass laws that protect the environment and help people lead good, productive lives. I’m a Democrat because the Democratic Party supports environmental protection, workers’ rights, health care for all, and a strong safety net for the neediest among us. Too many leaders of the Republican Party have bought into damaging untruths about climate change, tax cuts, and human services. (William Milliken, where are you when we need you?)

Sun: If elected to serve in Lansing, what will be your top 3 priorities to represent the 101st District?

O’Malley: I entered this race saying I come with no personal agenda; if I had an agenda it was common sense solutions to our everyday issues. I would say that is still my driving force, but since knocking on doors and talking to the people of the 101st, I’ve heard from the people that good jobs, better schools, and training for the trades along with roads and no-fault insurance reforms are tops on their lists. Along with this comes housing issues and diminishing child care due in large part to excessive regulations. I’m looking forward to leading the way!

Cater: Cut your car insurance in half. Get rid of the state income taxes and your pension tax. Lower your electric bill. Bottom line is I’m not going to take money from special interest and lobbyists in Lansing that’s going to change how I represent my people. When you elect me your car insurance will get cut in half. When you elect me you will not be charged anymore state income tax, you won’t even have to file a state income tax return. You’re an hourly employee? You’ll be getting a 4.25% pay raise in your check every Friday. You’ll have 4.25% back in your pocket that you can spend on your family. Seniors won’t have to worry about paying income tax on their pensions. And on top of that your electric bill is going down and so is the cost of manufacturing because we’ll get more companies to come here and we will be competitive against Ohio and Indiana. 

Wiejaczka: My top three legislative priorities once in office are to support affordable, quality health care for all, improve and fund the public education system, and create living wage jobs with benefits. In health care we need to protect the Medicaid expansion, bring key health care players to the table to solve the issues, and rein in prescription drug costs. We need good funding of public education, especially in rural areas. Finally, I support increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, and restoring the prevailing wage act.

Hoogterp: Restore trust in honest government (beginning with a personal commitment to decline all special interest money and limit individual donations to $100 or less). Develop policies and revenue sources (including taxes) to improve and stabilize state funding for public education, environmental protection, human services and infrastructure. Create partnerships to share funding with local government, non-profits and private business to address such issues as affordable housing, child care, homelessness and addiction.

Sun: What will you do to preserve and protect our environment and pristine waters and land?

O’Malley: There of course is a move to renewable energy as our times and technology advance. This is evident in the major suppliers moving to this end. I do firmly believe that a common-sense approach to the environment is important. Protecting the air, land and water is not exclusive to those who espouse the message. Economic growth and environmental concerns are not exclusive. No one wants to soil their nest. Reasonable regulations that do not damage the economy, but support and encourage growth and care for the environment are good. So, everything needs to be talked through and not be dictated by the loudest voice in the room.

Cater: First of all, I will force the DEQ to undo that license with Nestle to suck water from our underground aquifers. I know it’s a business and I’m a Republican and I’m pro-business, but that deal sucks. That deal that they got from the DEQ sucks. And it sucks water. They can go suck the spring water out of somewhere else. The Great Lakes touches five different states and another country, which is above my pay grade. There’s not a whole lot that I can do at the state level. I’m running to be a state representative, not a Congresswoman. Not yet. (Being that we are sitting on the largest body of freshwater in the world, I would like to see future stranded nuclear assets to be addressed though.)

Wiejaczka: We need to shut down Line 5 because the risk of the pipeline rupturing is far too great, and an oil spill would decimate the Great Lakes and northern Michigan’s tourism industry. I support measures to increase recycling in our state as Michigan is among the worst in the nation due to cheap landfill fees. Michigan should increase its Renewable Portfolio Standard to 100% by 2050. We need to remove the DEQ oversight panel that hands regulatory authority to private industry and makes it easier for businesses to exploit our lands.

Hoogterp: The state must develop and fund a strategy for monitoring of water quality in lakes, streams, groundwater and residential water supplies. The Department of Environmental Quality needs additional staff and a renewed mandate to place protection of air, water and land resources above the desires of business. I will propose a new program to address local environmental issues by directing a share of state funding to county conservation districts and other agencies.

Sun: What will you do to help our tourism industry? Or creating jobs, in general?

O’Malley: There is a misconception that government can create jobs. Jobs are created in the private sector. Government needs to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to attract new business and help current business expand. We cannot forget the employers already in place. If we have good schools for families, a trained work force, and a region that is attractive to relocate to, you will succeed. At the state level we need to work to help the local governments make these things happen. Looking to get broadband to rural areas like northern Michigan is a huge piece of this as well. I will work with the local governments to represent them and coordinate planning through the district. From a tourism aspect a major issue to tackle is housing for those who work in the seasonal industries. Again, the state needs to work with local governments to help that to happen.

Cater: Lowering the cost of living for you and the cost of doing business for companies is my platform. Bottom line: If we had 14 million people living in Michigan like all the other states around the country right now, instead of teetering back and forth between 9 and 10 million, we would have plenty enough jobs, plenty of affordable housing, and competitive labor. You elect me and I will go down and get on the insurance committee, and make sure that we get rid of no-fault and hold the insurance companies accountable for their MCCA Fund; Boom, we cut car insurance in half. It’s not rocket science. Even though a rocket scientist is helping to create this plan. (It’s no secret that I support Patrick Colbeck for governor and principled solutions.)

Wiejaczka: Small businesses account for 50% of the workforce in Michigan. We need to support small business growth by providing grants, and also funding for a retirement savings plan; and developing a small business office to promote the creation of small businesses in Michigan. In addition, promoting high speed internet in our rural district will create jobs, opportunities, and bring tourists. 

Hoogterp: The most important thing is to protect the dunes, lakes, rivers, forests, and soils that form the base of our tourist economy. Other conditions for a strong local economy include: an educated workforce; up-to-date infrastructure for the movement of goods, services, people, energy, and ideas; livable wages, including a higher minimum wage; and access to needed services such as health care. We need to work on those things, rather than hand-outs to new businesses. As part of the state’s tourism promotion effort, I would encourage development in some of our beautiful but less-well-known communities, rather than directing tourists only to sites that are already overcrowded.

Sun: Do you have any legislative ideas to deal with income inequality, the lack of affordable housing along our lakeshore communities, or challenges facing the working poor.

O’Malley: None of these issues are exclusive; everything is intertwined. If we have better training for college and the trades, then we have a trained work force. If you have better training and thus better jobs you have better pay. The more you make the more you can afford, so what is “affordable” housing? But on that end, we need to help local communities work with developers to build that housing. Something we need to get people to understand is “affordable” doesn’t mean low end or cheaply built. I believe a high tide raises all boats. Let’s do things to keep this economy building.

Cater: If we get cheaper car insurance instead of paying $2,000 a year, how about $1,000 per year? Do you think that would help the working poor? If you’re making $50,000 a year and you’re paying 4.25% income tax, then you’re paying $2,000 per year in state income tax. I can get car insurance cut in half, get rid of the state income tax, and while voting for me, I just put $3,000 in your pocket. My opponent has no plans to help Michigan communities like I do. I know what’s going on in our lakeshore communities, because I live in it daily. #TheStruggleIsReal. Competition for our labor will create more competitive wages.

Wiejaczka: I support providing opportunities for increased workforce housing by making it easier for our rural communities to obtain grants from MSHDA by adjusting the walk scores to reflect other assets in our community rather than be punished for not having public transit, bike lanes, and increased density. Michigan is 11th worst in the nation for income inequality. The disparity of wages has never been greater between the lower class and upper class in our state. We must increase the minimum wage to a living wage so that all people have opportunities to thrive and achieve. 

Hoogterp: Income inequality has multiple causes, including a technology-driven economy that puts a premium on highly skilled workers, and a tax system that benefits upper-income people through favorable treatment of financial instruments and capital gains. I support a higher minimum wage, universal health care, greater state support for life-long learning at community colleges, and an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to allow a progressive income tax. Affordable housing is an issue everywhere, but is especially critical here because of the combination of high property values, low hospitality industry wages, and the booming second-home market. Addressing this will require action by local government (permitting apartments and smaller home sizes), non-profits (generating community support and sometimes acting as developers) and state government (providing financing incentives).

Sun: The entire nation often seems more politically divided than it has been in many decades? How will you promote civility in politics? (Please be specific.)

O’Malley: This is a simple one. I believe we all want the same things; we just differ on the path to get there. I want to say “lets stop the noise.” I want to listen to everyone and talk. No yelling allowed. We may not agree on everything but somewhere we will find common ground. Let’s start there. When I am the state representative I will hold coffee hours so that everyone can come and talk to me. I will represent everyone. We may not agree on all issues, but I will listen. People of the district will know where I will be and how they can talk to me. When knocking on doors I do mention to people that bring up issues, which many are Washington-related, I’m talking Lansing and state issues. I think the 24-hour news channels have people focused heavily on DC. Maybe we need a 24 Michigan News channel! LOL!

Cater: I’ll treat other people how I’d like to be treated. I’ll be nice to them and they will be nice to me. That’s how civility works. But people would be a lot happier and nicer to each other with cheaper car insurance and no state income tax and lowering the cost of living—cheaper electric rates too (get rid of the Monopoly!).

Wiejaczka: I believe the legislators should sit in alternating seating in the chamber so that Republicans and Democrats are not in separate locations on opposite sides of the chamber but instead sitting next to each other. This will provide an opportunity for both sides to become more acquainted and learn to respect each other’s viewpoints. Divisiveness is detrimental to democracy. I am accustomed to working closely with diverse, opinionated people to solve complex problems both in the hospital and public school settings.

Hoogterp: It’s called leadership: I will stand up for my own principles, but also do my best to LISTEN, and to speak and act in ways that respect others, no matter their party affiliation, gender, or economic status. On a policy level, we should get beyond artificial labels and work to find solutions to common problems. And we have to get big money and negative campaigning out of the election process. In my candidacy announcement I promised I would not say a single bad word about anyone in my district and I would not accept money from special interests. 

Sun: Since much of this midterm election may play out as a referendum on the current president, how do you find Trump’s policies and politics? How do you react to his international politics, his relationship with Russia’s Putin, his terse interactions with longtime allies, his tariffs on products, his business practices while in office, and his rhetoric in general? If you could say one thing to Trump, personally what would it be?

O’Malley: Again see my above answer. I want to focus on Michigan! I know that Mr. Trump has his detractors. Many love him. Personally, I’m for lower taxes, higher employment rates, judges that follow the law not politics, peace in Korea, fewer regulations and so on. Washington for too long has been lead by people who only really care about being in Washington. Is he a polished politician? No. Is he the street fighter we probably need in DC? Yes; the swamp is murkier than I think any of us knew. So yes, I know some won’t like this, but I support our president, because he is our president just as Mr. Obama was before him. If I could say one thing to Mr. Trump? Mention me in a tweet! 

Cater: Politics is local. President Trump isn’t going to have anything to do with the 101st District representative race. Personally, I support my president. And I’m glad that someone has the balls to stand up to people in the world. People in the 101st could care less if you’re Republican or Democrat and who you support for president. Don’t hammer me over the head because I’m Republican. Bottom line is the people want their car insurance cut in half, they want lower electric rates, they want good health care, they want better roads, and they want to get rid of our state income tax to put more money in their pocket for a chance that people might actually stay here in Michigan.

Wiejaczka: As a registered nurse for the past 39 years working and caring for all kinds of different people, I find the level of divisiveness in our country disturbing. I plan on working with all people to pass legislation to benefit this district. I keep focused on the needs of my district that oftentimes does not reflect Trump. Having knocked on 2,000 doors myself as a candidate, my message of hope, love, and service resonates with folks who are tired of the fighting and finger pointing. 

Hoogterp: Mr. Trump is a master manipulator who won the presidency by exploiting the fears and insecurities of a divided nation. In office, he has pursued policies (environmental destruction, tariffs, corporate tax cuts, Obamacare sabotage, food-stamp reductions, etc.) that are directly harmful to the working people who supported him. He is not likely to change, so I will work to counter his influence by electing Democrats in Lansing and Washington. At the same time, it is important that we must not demonize the people who voted for Trump; we need them, and the healing process can succeed only with their support.

Sun: Tell us about one experience (personal or professional) that has prepared you to serve the people of Michigan’s 101st?

O’Malley: I love this state, born and raised here. I have life experiences, I’ve raised three children, paid rent and mortgages. I have gone from a young kid getting my start in life to 34 years representing and reporting on this district as a broadcaster. I know this region. I’ve been listening all these years. I have hired and fired, I have volunteered, I have promoted causes. I come to this with a life’s worth of experiences and background. For 34 years the people have been loyal to me, now is my chance to be loyal back to them. I am ALL ABOUT the Fighting 101!

Cater: I’m the only woman on the ship with men. Do you think that I have the balls to stand up to Lansing, when I’m the only woman on the ship with a bunch of horny old guys? I’m a seafarer. That’s my background. That’s who I am. And I’m taking the high seas to Lansing. It’s time to Baptize the Swamp. Thank you for your vote. You and I are bringing back accountability to Michigan, together.

Wiejaczka: Thirty-nine years of caring that reflects action to promote health, unity, and increasing the common good. As a special education school nurse caring for the emotionally impaired population for 14 years, I have a skill set that includes calmness under high intense pressure and crises coupled with persuasion tactics to successfully solve problems. Teamwork leads to success in any setting, whether delivering babies or legislating. 

Hoogterp: I became president of the Crystal Lake & Watershed Association (CLWA) at a time when the organization was embroiled in a bitter, multi-party dispute over construction of a proposed state boat launch site. The state argued that the project would improve access to one of Michigan’s iconic water bodies; lakefront owners worried that it would draw partying crowds to the usually quiet lake; CLWA acknowledged the need for better access but raised environmental issues, including wetland loss and introduction of aquatic invasive species. By the time I became involved, the parties together had spent nearly $1 million on legal expenses.

We listened to all the parties, proposed some design changes, and ultimately reached a settlement that reduced the shoreline footprint, preserved a segment of wetland, converted some parking from asphalt to grass, and permitted CLWA to build and operate a boat-washing station. Key to this success was that we were able to rebuild trust among the “warring” parties, while offering a creative option that moved negotiations away from the “all-or-nothing” attitude that had prevailed.


Source: The Glen Arbor Sun
August 3, 2018