MANISTEEÂ â The Democratic candidatesÂ running for the 101st District House of Representatives seatÂ in theÂ Aug. 7Â Primary Election were able toÂ address voters at a forum held on Wednesday night.
The League of Women Voters partnered with the Manistee News Advocate to host the public candidate forum at the Manistee Intermediate School District (ISD) ofďŹce.
All runningÂ for the 35th District State Senate and 101st District Michigan House of Representatives in contested races were invited to attend. Democrats Kathy Wiejaczka and Edward Hoogterp,Â both running for the 101st House of Representatives, participated in the forum.
Republican Carolyn Cater running in a contested race for the State House of Representatives and Republican Cary Urka, for the State Senate, were at the forum and able to meet with the public, but did not take part due to the lack of opposition.
The other fourÂ candidates were not in attendance.
Michelle Graves, managing editor of the News Advocate, who acted as the mediator for the debate, asked each candidate to introduce themselves to the public within a two minute time limit.
Hoogterp startedÂ by sharing his ties to the area, and his years of experience as a journalist.
âI am the Drain Commissioner for Benzie County, and for 30 years I was a journalist actually starting here in Manistee in the â70s,â saidÂ Hoogterp. âThen, like many people who had to make a living I went down state and worked at the Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com.
âWe always knew someday weâd be back in Northwest Michigan. Over the years, I have covered a lot of politiciansâŚ I never thought I would be on this side of the table.â
Following wasÂ Wiejaczka who spoke on her background in nursing, along with her years of operating a small business.
â(My husband) and I moved up here almost 37 years ago and raised our family, came up out of college and had three kids,â she said. âWe also started a small businesses in EmpireÂ â thatâs where we liveÂ â itâs a remodelingÂ companyâŚ what I have done on top of that for the past 39 years is work as a nurse.
âI am on this journey because I just felt the votes coming out of Lansing did not reflect this district.â
Presented to the candidates were key issues selected by the Business Leaders in Michigan and the Center for Michigan. The audience selected the order of importance.
TopicsÂ includedÂ redistricting (gerrymandering); Medicaid work requirements; education and schools; fixing roads; growing the economy; fixing lead pipes; âred flagâ gun bills; funding toxic clean-ups; and the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
The top question of the night was on gerrymandering and redistricting.
âThere is a ballot proposal that establishes an independent commission to review and develop the districts rather than have political parties do this,â said Graves, asking participants to provide feedback.
Wiejaczka said she supports the proposal, and believes the public should have more control.
âI agree, I hope it makes it on the ballot and the voters get to decide on that,â she said. âIt is so wrong that itâs in the hands of politicians instead of the public, instead of the citizens.â
Agreeing withÂ Wiejaczka,Â Hoogterp said he supports the proposal but said many issues would still remain unresolved.
âI am certainly going to vote for this and support it,â he said. âItâs not perfect, in one way we can see this as more evidence as to why we need to change people in the legislature, because itâs a sign of a broken legislature. Itâs a good plan and a good start, but it wonât fix everything.â
Graves followed up with another popular question, asking participants to share their thoughts onÂ initiatives â both national and statewideÂ âÂ aiming to establish work requirements for Medicaid and SNAP (food stamp) recipients.
âI was very disturbed that it passed, and I would do everything in my power to stop that,âÂ Wiejaczka said. âIt is actually criminalizing people who are poor. Very few people are fraudulentâŚ it criminalizes them for being mentally ill or having a disability, and not being able to work.â
Similar toÂ Wiejaczka, Hoogterp said he does not support establishing work requirements forÂ Medicaid and SNAP (food stamp) recipients.
âI consider it to be an awful thing, which will not save any money. The great majority of people who are on Medicaid are working but are not making enough to pay for insurance,â he said.
Audience members were also given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the event. Candidates were asked to explain why voters should choose them over their opponents.
âMy profession is well trusted, and we have worked very hard with ethics. I think that bears a lot of weight at the door,â saidÂ Wiejaczka. âPeople trust meâŚ itâs about breaking down those barriers and trying to find the commonalitiesÂ and unity as Americans, instead of all of the differences currently going on that I cannot stand.â
Hoogterp followed up with a statement on his candidacy.
âIâve had many, many years of watching politics and never been involved in it beforeâŚ in years as a reporter I have learned how to talk to people and listen to what they say,â he said. âI also think that my particular message will resonate with independent voters.â