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Business, size of government discussed at candidate forum

Published 8:32am Thursday, July 15, 2010

By AARON MUELLER

Cassopolis Vigilant

CASSOPOLIS — Jefferson Township Hall played host to a candidate forum for Aug. 3 primary elections Monday night. Two of the candidates running for state Sen. Ron Jelinek’s term-limited 21st district seat were on hand to introduce themselves, while the two candidates looking to end U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s run also spoke.

Here is a recap of what the candidates had to say in their short speeches.

21st District State Senate

• Todd Griffee, a Niles resident, is a newcomer to politics and called himself “a regular, everyday guy.”

He is running in the Republican primary against current state Rep. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, who earned the endorsements of Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, on Monday.

As a small business owner, a former police officer and Army veteran, Griffee said he brings a wealth of different experiences to the table.

“I have unique experiences that give me insight into how this system works,” he told the group of about 30 attendees. “As an army veteran, I have all kinds of organizational leadership skills. As a state trooper, you see how a law is formed, how it’s enforced and how it’s prosecuted.”

As a small business owner, Griffee said small businesses are the key to Michigan’s financial recovery.

“I see all the pitfalls the legislature can put on a small business,” he said. “In this economy, we need to get all of our businesses going. We need to make Michigan competitive and draw businesses into Michigan and allow them to flourish.”

Griffee also said he stands for government that is “smaller, less intrusive and more localized.”

• Scott Elliott, a democrat from Benton Harbor, is a small businessman new to politics. He will face the winner of the Proos-Griffee primary in the general election.

Elliott said he wants to get rid of the “Upton machine,” calling John Proos, who worked on Upton’s staff, “a creature of Upton.”

“For the past 30 years, we’ve had the same kind of misguided leadership,” he said. “We need something else.”

Elliott said a big part of his platform is introducing a graduated income tax that would lower taxes for the bottom 80 percent of Michigan and increase taxes for the 20 percent most wealthy.

“We need a fair tax system for everyone,” Elliott said.

Elliott also believes supporting local agriculture, manufacturing and small businesses will help repair the Michigan economy. He also supports developing renewable energy sources.

6th District U.S. House of Representatives

• Jack Hoogendyk, a Kalamazoo resident, is facing off with Fred Upton, who has held the 6th district seat since 1987, in the Republican primary.

Hoogendyk served in the state House of Representatives for three terms from 2002 to 2008.

He said those currently serving in Washington “have forgotten that the Constitution is supposed to limit government and protect individual liberty.”

Hoogendyk also questioned Upton’s voting record, including his support of Obama’s Omnibus Appropriations Act that increased federal spending by $32 billion.

As a fiscal conservative, Hoogendyk said he never voted for a tax increase during his service in the Michigan House. He also pointed out he is “100 percent pro-life” and is endorsed by Right to Life.

• Don Cooney, a democrat from Kalamazoo, will face the winner of the Upton-Hoogendyk Republican primary in the November general election.

Cooney is a seven-term Kalamazoo city commissioner and associate professor of social work at Western Michigan University. He ran against Upton in the last election and earned more votes than any democrat has before against Upton.

Although Cooney and Hoogendyk disagree on many issues, Cooney said they both want to “wish Fred Upton a happy retirement.”

Cooney said he is running for congress simply to serve the people.

“I want to be a congressman that listens to people and that takes the concerns of the people and fights for them in Washington,” he said.

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