Democratic State House candidates discuss issues

BY RILEY KELLEY

Healthcare, the environment, education and more social issues dominated the conversation between Kathy Wiejaczka and Ed Hoogterp Tuesday at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

Wiejaczka of Empire and Hoogterp of Beulah are both hoping to earn the Democratic nomination for the 101st District House seat in the upcoming primary election on Aug. 7, and both candidates had a chance to discuss their passions and platforms at the candidate forum sponsored by the Daily News and the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Daily News Managing Editor David Bossick and Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kathy Maclean asked the candidates questions submitted by members of the audience and residents who were not able to attend.

PLATFORMS

Wiejaczka introduced herself as a registered nurse, an educator and the owner of a small construction business in Empire. She said chief among her priorities were healthcare, education and increasing workers’ wages, and emphasized her career of service. She noted that her various roles have prepared her for office and informed her vision for a seat in Lansing.

“I’m a registered nurse,” Wiejaczka said. “I’ve spent my entire life serving people and I’m going to serve this district like I’ve served my patients for the past 30 years.”

Hoogterp, a former journalist and editor who currently serves as drain commissioner for Benzie County, cited an invested interest in the environment as well as the economy as chief issues of his platform, noting the connection between the two. “Environment is very near the top of my list… but people think it’s either environment or economy, and it doesn’t have to be,” he said in response to a question from Maclean about his priorities. “The environment is very important but we also need child care for people, decent affordable housing for people and ultimately we need universal health care for people, too.”

Wiejaczka said her decision to enter into her first political campaign was a response to the results of the 2016 presidential election.

“I participated in the women’s march in Washington, and I was inspired,” she said, adding that the experience boosted her belief that one didn’t need to be a seasoned politician or a lawyer to run for office.

“My issues are healthcare for all, public education and support … living wage jobs and boosting our economy,” she said. “As a small business owner, I’ve been there and I’ve done it.”

Hoogterp said his decision to run was the result of a desire to encourage environmental stewardship at the state level.

“I decided to run because I want the state of Michigan to help the environment, and to help people,” he said.

Hoogterp said he made a vow early on in the process that he would place a cap on private donations and not accept any funding from special interest groups and lobbies, noting that he hoped to influence other candidates and sitting politicians to take a similar stand.

“I decided at the beginning, no contributions over $100 from anyone, and no contributionsfrom special interests or lobbyists,” he said.

Wiejaczka emphasized her commitment to universal healthcare, and said she had plans in place for how to tackle the issue and reduce medical costs for Michigan residents if she makes it to the capital, drawing on her practical experience in nursing.

“I am totally in support of Medicaid expansion,” Wiejaczka said. “I’ve seen those patients who for the first time in their lives can have preventative mammograms and colonoscopies and that’s incredible.”

She said she has spoken to 101st District residents who have cited prescription drug costs as a reason for bankruptcy.

“I totally support (curtailing) the cost of prescription drugs,” she said, adding that she would push to make progress in this area in the state House.

EDUCATION

On the topic of education, Hoogterp and Wiejaczka agreed about the importance of increasing funding to public schools and improving access to education for district residents.

“The reigning problem in education in Michigan is underfunding,” Hoogterp said. “We need more funding so we can have smaller class sizes, more counselors, more pre-school and some kind of money for school safety so parents can be confident their kids are safe.”

Hoogterp said he believes the solution lies in giving control to local school districts.

“The legislature needs to stop micromanaging schools,” he added. “We have to trust the local school districts to do what’s needed and make it work.”

Wiejaczka agreed, and said there is a disparity in dollars-per-student public school funding between different regions of the state that puts the 101st District at a disadvantage.

“The staff has to do a lot more with a lot less money, and that affects all of us — that affects society,” she said. “I believe in funding education so that it can improve, and we need to do that in a fair and equitable way around the state.”

OTHER ISSUES

The candidates agreed on several other issues, including the legalization of recreational marijuana, both saying they supported it; the state legislature intervening on short-term rental issues, which they both opposed; and the citizen-led Voters Not Politicians redistricting measure to stop gerrymandering in the state of Michigan, which they supported.

When asked whether they supported repairing, replacing or removing the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline, Hoogterp said, “Repair, butcarefully.” Wiejaczka said she supported removing Line 5.

In closing, Hoogterp told a story of a summer picking cherries in Pentwater, where he visited the Pere Marquette River, an experience that fostered his passion for the state’s environment.

“It changed my life,” he said. “Now I look in this district… and I want to make sure that every child and every grandchild has that beautiful environment and someone to love them, take care of them when they’re in need, and take them out to enjoy it.”

Wiejaczka re-iterated her plans to apply the lessons of her career to the state House, if elected.

“Problem solving and critical thinking is what I’ve done for 39 years,” she said. “Our campaign is all about love, service and hope.

“It isn’t just me. This isn’t the Kathy show. This is (a chance to) flip the House and get some work done for the state,” she concluded.

The 101st will be vacated at the end of the year by Rep. Curt VanderWall, RLudington, who is leaving office to pursue the 35th District State Senate seat.

Voters will decide between Wiejaczka and Hoogterp on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

riley@ludingtondailynews.com 843-1122 x309

The audience and Democratic candidates for the 101st State House seat Kathy Wiejaczka and Ed Hoogterp listen to a question during the candidate forum Tuesday evening at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

Ed Hoogterp discusses his views during Tuesday’s forum.

 

Source: Ludington Daily News

Wednesday, July 25, 2018