Republican candidates appear at SMC

Published 10:34 pm Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Dowagiac Daily News

Six GOP candidates for offices from Cassopolis to Lansing — five incumbents and a challenger for the Cass County Board of Commissioners — auditioned for Southwestern Michigan College Young Republicans Tuesday night in the Student Activities Center of the building named for former state Sen. Charles O. Zollar.

Races will be decided in the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

It is a watershed election, with SMC visitor Rick Snyder topping the Republican ticket for governor, that will yield 29 brand-new senators of the 38 and over 50 fresh-faced state representatives of 100.

Plus, a new attorney general and secretary of state.

“We’re going to have a whole suite of new people coming in to talk about how we keep Michigan safe, how we move Michigan forward and how we reinvent Michigan — which is what the Snyder campaign is talking about,” Senate candidate John Proos said.

Prosecutor Victor Fitz, midway through his four-year term, promoted “reaching for the SKY,” an acronym for Schuette (for attorney general), Kelly and Young (for Supreme Court).

Candidates taking part in the forum included state Reps. Sharon Tyler of Niles, whose 78th District encompasses Dowagiac and Wayne, Silver Creek and Howard townships of Cass County; Rep. Matt Lori of Constantine in St. Joseph County, whose 59th District covers the rest of Cass County; and Rep. John Proos of St. Joseph, whose 79th District takes in northern Berrien County.

Proos, wearing shorts from coaching soccer, is term limited after six years in the House and is seeking term-limited Sen. Ron Jelinek’s 21st District state Senate seat.

Tyler and Lori are seeking their second two-year terms in Lansing.

Commissioners participating included Vice Chairman Ron Francis of Diamond Lake, Cassopolis, an eight-year veteran whose District 9 touches four different townships; Commissioner Ed Goodman of District 1, Silver Creek Township; and Roseann Marchetti of Ontwa Township, a retired teacher challenging District 7 incumbent David Taylor, D-Edwardsburg.

Moderator Aaron Horner, an SMC criminal justice major, spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep Fred Upton of St. Joseph.

After each candidate spent about five minutes reviewing their credentials, they fielded questions from students, batting around such issues as methamphetamine, nullifying Obamacare, allowing the carrying of concealed weapons no campus and in dormitories, stabilizing police funding and curbing spending to contain state deficits and education.

Tyler talked about consolidating services, such as school superintendents, and virtual schools that could teach Russian or Chinese.

With Michigan facing a $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion deficit again in 2012 and after shedding 285,000 jobs last year, “We have to become creative,” the 30-year economic developer said, suggesting doing away with prevailing wage on construction projects as one saving.

Francis noted Cass County spends $13.5 million to $14 million and “80 percent of our budget goes to people who make bad decisions,” whether it’s for the sheriff, jails, the court system or welfare. “We need to get a handle on that.”

Goodman received applause when he spoke about more money not necessarily being a solution to schools when so many students are uninspired and lackadaisical about learning.

Proos put in a word for parents needing to step up and get involved.

Lori previously served as St. Joseph County sheriff in Centreville for 20 years during a 30-year law enforcement career.

He intended to retire, but predecessor Rick Shaffer of Three Rivers persuaded him to seek the lawmaking post.

“Doing this was the furthest thing from my mind, but here I am.” He and his wife have two adult sons. He enjoys ping pong, basketball and traveling.

“Working with a Democrat on the House floor is not necessarily a bad thing,” Lori said. “It’s only when you raise issues to levels higher than reps on the floor that things get tangled up. It’s been a very enjoyable experience.”

Proos grew up in St. Joseph, attended Marquette University, earned a master’s degree from Michigan State University in education, worked for Upton for three years, spent a year and a half in real estate and homebuilding development and returned to the congressman’s office for another seven years running his 6th District operation. Upton represents 670,000 people in 6 1/2 counties.

“Our region, southwest Michigan, is often forgotten in Lansing,” Proos said, given the population clout of southeast Michigan in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

“Look no further than agriculture and what the current governor has said — literally nothing. She doesn’t see it as the backbone of Michigan’s economy, even though it’s a $72 billion industry with 1.1 million jobs directly and indirectly.”