Liz Ennis, president of the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties, shares a laugh with 78th District House candidates Jack Arbanas of Buchanan and Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs. Leader photo/JOHN EBY

Archived Story

Arbanas, Pagel play nice in debate

Published 4:58pm Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BUCHANAN — It wasn’t much of a debate with a civil campaign and cordial candidates agreeing on many issues.

The “glaring difference” Democrat Jack Arbanas of Buchanan sees is that he is pro-choice on abortion and contributes to Planned Parenthood while Republican Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs is pro-life.

At one point in their exchange Tuesday at the AEP Cook Plant Buchanan office, Pagel, four-year chairman of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, quipped of Arbanas, “He’s such a fun guy, I might put him on my staff.”

“I may get in trouble in Lansing for going across the aisle too much,” Pagel said. “I’m not making a career out of this, but trying to do the right thing. I’m going to have to be brave enough to stand up to a dysfunctional culture and be willing to buck my own party. Government doesn’t create jobs, risk-takers do, so it needs to not get in the way and reward them in our tax structure. Our economy, education and protecting small business and farms will be my priorities. I’m a proven leader with experience to represent the 90,000 people in this district.”

As Arbanas told Cass County Tea Party, “Sometimes you have to change yourself to entice jobs to come, not build a flower and wait for the bumblebee to come by with a bit of pollen. In the airplane business, you have to put forth a lot of effort to find a buyer. Clark Equipment was brought here by Buchanan leaders who went to Chicago and gave them free rent and cheap power. I will find people who control jobs and bring business.”

“Dave is an honorable guy who has been home since college, building a good business,” Arbanas said. “I’ve literally been on the road for 20 years, flying. I’ve seen a lot, including Europe, Canada and Mexico. I’ve seen what works and doesn’t and what’s possible.”

Susan Smith, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan from Ypsilanti, moderated the forum co-sponsored by Leader Publications, Rotary Club of the Three Oaks Region, Dowagiac Rotary, Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce, Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce, Berrien Springs Eau Claire Rotary and Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

The 78th House District consists of part of Berrien County and Silver Creek, Howard, Milton and Ontwa townships in Cass County.

Incumbent Republican Sharon Tyler of Niles seeks to succeed Louise Stine as Berrien County clerk against Niles Democrat Robin Bays.

K-12 education

Pagel: “I strongly feel we need to raise funding for public schools and not siphon off for higher education. We’ve got to get per-pupil up to a more reasonable amount.”

Arbanas: “I’m for bringing back all the money taken away from public schools in the last year and a half. The governor and Republican Party moved money from public schools to really rich guys who run corporations. Further, I’m not much of a fan of charter schools, which are usually less successful than public schools they replace. I am the endorsed candidate of MEA.”


Arbanas: “I’m a little freaked out about the whole prospect of privatizing prisons and running them like motels you can’t leave.”

Pagel: “My views don’t differ dramatically from Jack’s. I’d like to be open-minded because government hasn’t proven to be the wisest employer in use of dollars. It can point out ways to save waste. We spend way too much on corrections compared to Indiana. We have to be extremely careful with it as an option. It makes me nervous to see for-profit organizations running schools.”


Pagel: “It makes me very nervous, though most of my Republican colleagues are positive because we can get a lot of cheap energy” injecting water and chemicals to release natural gas. “I don’t want to look back on a disaster because we didn’t realize what we were doing to a tremendous volume of water.”

Arbanas: “It makes me nervous also.”

Online voter registration

Arbanas: “I do not support it. I don’t like the idea there is nothing to be audited.”

Pagel: “There would need to be tremendous safeguards. Maybe that’s possible with technology. The devil would be in the details.”


About Jack Arbanas

Married 14 years to Niles teacher Jeanne; two children, 10 and 5

Graduated Western Michigan University with economics degree

Worked in banking and finance

Professional pilot for 25 years, private jets last 15

Owned Marazita Sweet Shop

About Dave Pagel

Berrien County Board of Commissioners chairman

14 years as president of Berrien Springs school board

Bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Michigan State University

Founded Dave Pagel Produce in 1978 and Dave Pagel Farms in 2004

Both continue to operate with the help of son Jeremy

Dave and Sue raised two sons and two daughters, ages 18-24, and celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2011

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