Republicans ‘energized’ at Lincoln Day DinnerPublished 8:55am Monday, March 15, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
It was a full house at the Elks Lodge in Niles Saturday night as the Berrien County Republican Party gathered for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
Inside, guests including local faces such as Niles Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell and treasurer Jim Ringer, state Rep. Sharon Tyler, Sheriff Paul Bailey, state Rep. John Proos and state Sen. Ron Jelinek, were quite energetic, something many said was just an example of the party’s mood overall.
“I think it’s very upbeat,” said Mike Bell, chairman of this year’s event. “Now, I think people are invigorated again. I think a lot of people think this could be our shot.”
More than 160 people were expected to attend Saturday night’s dinner, which quickly filled up.
The economy, education and jobs were all part of the focus for many of the party’s candidates.
Candidates like Al Pscholka, who was off duty Saturday night from his day job working for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and on duty as a candidate for State Rep. of Michigan’s 79th district.
Pscholka said he felt aided by his experience serving on the Lincoln Township board of trustees for eight years and the Cornerstone Economic Alliance Group for nine as well as the experience being a former owner of a small business.
“We’ve got to get some jobs for young people,” Pscholka said, adding that seeing his daughter graduate from college only to be unable to find a job in Michigan “is really what’s driving me. They don’t think their priorities are being taken care of.”
Asked his opinion on what issues might be concerning Michigan voters most, Pscholka said, “I think they are frustrated because they don’t see people solving problems and that is a big reason why I’m running.”
And those running seem to be doing so on a momentum that’s only building.
“I think the mood is excellent, there’s a lot of energy,” said Terry Lynn Land, secretary of state and candidate for lieutenant governor.
In addition to more candidates running for open vacancies “than ever before,” she said “there’s just really that enthusiasm. It’s also about really getting engaged in government.”
For the party and for the state, Land said the first step is “to fix Lansing and get Michigan back to work.”
Reducing the tax burden on residents is also something Land said has to happen for the state to turn toward a new direction.
“We have to lower the taxes for everyone,” she said.
Education is another issue weighing heavily on the minds of voters.
Michigan was recently disappointed when the U.S. Department of Education passed over its application for “Race to the Top” federal funds in the first round of disbursements.
Sharon Tyler, state representative for the district and Niles native who sits on the education committee, said Michigan didn’t meet requirements following additional cuts made to K-12 programs following the House and Senate’s budget finalization.
“It’s going to be a tough year,” Tyler said.
The state still has a chance at funds in the second round, she said, but in Lansing the issue may come down to communication.
“The House and the Senate should have been working on it together,” Tyler said. “We need to be working on this together immediately. There just needs to be better communication … and the student comes first.”
Jelinek received special recognition Saturday night for attending his last Lincoln Day Dinner as state senator, no longer able to hold his seat due to term limits. Proos announced his bid for the seat last month.