Archived Story

Leader Publications endorses candidates

Published 2:40am Friday, October 29, 2010

Leader Publications met with candidates for local races in preparation for Tuesday’s general election. Endorsements below represent the editorial board’s views on which candidates have the best potential to consistently advocate the needs and wishes of southwest Michigan.

Endorsements are an age-old tradition for local newspapers, and our editorial board put a lot of thought into each, but we urge all voters to do their own research and vote for their preferences. Endorsements are intended as a guide to incorporate into readers’ own research of the candidates’ values and positions.

State House, 78th District

In this race, political newcomer Cindy Ellis, a Democrat from Sawyer, seeks to unseat first-term incumbent state Rep. Sharon Tyler, a Republican from Niles. We believe both candidates have the potential and the intelligence to serve this district well, but we believe Ellis is the better choice.

Tyler offered great ideas when she was elected in 2008, and we believe she still has great vision, but the editorial board is concerned she has not capitalized on her 30 years of economic development experience to further the interests of the 78th District. While we understand Lansing leadership has a way of taking the wind out of the sails of even the boldest freshman legislator, Tyler set her own bar high in 2008 — perhaps too high. With the strength of the 43-member Bipartisan Freshman Caucus, and more economic development experience than perhaps any other legislator, Tyler should have fought to make her voice the loudest on job creation and business attraction; instead, she says she has worked a lot on “behind-the-scenes” business recruitment and co-signing minor changes to legislation.

Those are items she could have continued to work on as a local economic development official — a legislator is expected, whether realistically or unrealistically, to make an impact on the bigger picture.

We also continue to be concerned with her sponsorship of a bill to allow municipalities to change their legal notice requirements. This was bad legislation when it was introduced in February, and even after months of committee work, remains a bad bill that will harm accountability and transparency in government.

House Bill 5848, Tyler admits, was “basically written” by the Michigan Municipal League, which in this case put minor cost-savings by local governments over the rights of citizens to have transparent local government.

Ellis has many bold ideas, perhaps even bolder than Tyler’s were in 2008. We were impressed with her background: starting and building a business whose only focus was returning injured employees to work. We believe her 35 years of experience in employment services, putting 10,000 people back to work, gives her a unique perspective on the problems facing Michigan’s economy.

Ellis has already offered some bold plans, including using her first year’s representative salary (just over $70,000) to help pay for software for employment services in the 78th District. She and Tyler also share views on the need to shorten licensure delays for businesses and reform the Michigan Business Tax.

With bold ideas, however, comes a big responsibility.

If elected, we hope Ellis is more successful in navigating the Lansing bureaucracy and is able to take a leadership role on jobs. If re-elected, we hope Rep. Tyler will make a more concerted effort in her second term to put her economic development experience to better big-picture use.

State House, 59th District

Being a career politician isn’t always a good thing.

Sometimes life experience, community involvement and longtime local residency can be big factors in a legislator’s contributions not only to his or her office, but to the constituents’ best interests as well.

Rep. Matt Lori is seeking a second two-year term in the 59th District, and we believe he is deserving.

The Constantine Republican — whose district encompasses the rest of Cass County — is a “regular guy” with more than 30 years on the job at the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office, where he served as sheriff.

Encouraged by others who believed he would be a good lawmaker, Lori never saw himself becoming involved in politics, but has taken on the role with an even keel and down-to-earth manner.

His focus has been on health care, law enforcement, education and jobs. He is especially proud of his work in the Legislature that focuses on transparency in government.

Lori has introduced numerous House bills, including those related to corrections, criminal procedure, family law and transportation.

If re-elected, Lori said he will listen to his constituents, who have been indicating they want partisan bickering to end and work to begin at the Capitol.

Lori is again facing Carol Higgins, a Mendon Democrat and retired Marcellus teacher who owns a bed and breakfast.

Higgins vowed to spend less than $1,000 on her campaign — an honorable but unrealistic goal, but getting your name and face out to the public costs some money.

Higgins has not been very visible in Cass County this campaign, which makes us doubt her knowledge of and commitment to Cass, not just St. Joseph County.

Lori has our support in seeking a second two years in the House.

State Senate, 21st District

St. Joseph resident John Proos, whose six-year term limit is up in the 79th District of the House of Representatives, is competing against Scott Elliott of Benton Harbor for the 21st District seat in the state Senate, to be vacated by Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, who has also reached his term limit.

Elliott, a Democrat, has revitalized two downtown Benton Harbor businesses and currently owns one. He has successfully started 10 small businesses since the 1970s.

Proos previously served as vice president of Heritage Homes Inc. of Michigan and also as U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s deputy chief of staff and district director.

“Career politician” is often used in a negative connotation, but having experience and a proven track record are assets for any lawmaker.

On that note, we believe Proos is the best man for the job in the 21st District.

Proos sponsored the repeal of the 22-percent Business Tax surcharge.

He has been a vocal opponent for increased spending for the Michigan Department of Corrections, believing the department should be more efficiently run and the increased funding used to balance the state budget.

His farmers’ market legislation signed by the governor is aimed at boosting Michigan’s entrepreneurial spirit by lessening restrictions on roadside stands and markets.

Proos also shared and drafted legislation that called for a deadline for the state to finish permitting requirements.

A common concern shared among several candidates in this election is that painfully slow regulations have stunted business growth in the region.

Although Elliott seems to be genuinely concerned about issues in the Benton Harbor area, we believe he should run for office to solve problems rather than point fingers.

He is not happy with how things are run in government, but he has not revealed a plan for action or ideas to make things happen in his district.

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