Dems square off in state Senate race

MARQUETTE – Democrats Christopher Germain of Escanaba and Chris LaMarche of Gladstone will face-off in the Aug. 5 primary for a state Senate seat.

The winner will face incumbent Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, in the Nov. 4 general election. The term of office is four years. Adam Robarge of Marquette withdrew from the Democratic primary race previously and is running for the Marquette City Commission.

The candidates were each asked to provide some details about their backgrounds they think voters should know, why voters should choose them and what top three priorities they would have in office if elected. Word limitations were imposed on answers.

Germain said he was born and raised in Escanaba. He has been a realtor in Delta County for the past 10 years and serves as the president of the Upper Peninsula Association of Realtors Inc. He is a fire captain on the Ford River Volunteer Fire Department, has been with the department for more than nine years and has obtained more than 18 certifications in the firefighting field. He said he set up all fire-related training in Delta County.

On why voters should select him, Germain said: “I was raised with a strong sense of community service. That has led me to be heavily-involved in our community in several ways. In addition to my volunteer fire service, I am active with the Delta County Jaycees, Delta County Relay for Life and Delta Lodge 195 of Free and Accepted Masons.

“These organizations work on fundraising, community development, and advocacy. I believe that seeking public office is a way to continue my community service on a greater level. I think that there is no better way to help your community than fight for our issues at the state level. We need someone who will stand for Upper Peninsula industry, education, the middle class, and our senior citizens. The U.P. deserves a senator who will put the area’s interests first, not special interests. I will not forget where I came from and who I am there to serve.”

Germain detailed his three top priorities if elected:

Ending unfair tax shifts: “I will work to repeal the new retirement tax on pensions that is hurting our retirees. Retirees who played by the rules and worked hard their whole lives have been hit with this new burdensome tax. I will fight to end the tax hikes on working families that have been used to give away unrestricted handouts to wealthy corporations.”

Economic development: “Right now, Michigan is 49th in the nation for job growth, third in the nation for highest unemployment, (we) and are rated 10th for worst place to retire.

“We must work together to create an environment that promotes economic investment and development and that grows the highly skilled workforce that we have here in the U.P. We must work to attract more business to Michigan and offer tax cuts to corporations providing new jobs. We must become active partners with our communities and foster start up businesses by giving them the tools they need to succeed. In addition, we need to look at jobs that are two years out and train our upcoming workforce for those positions. Training our upcoming workforce and fostering a better economy begin with investing in our education system. It is crucial that every child has access to a world class education that will prepare them for the 21st century economy.”

Community security: “We must work on restoring funding to police, fire, public safety and correctional facilities. Those who protect our communities and our lives deserve better.”

LaMarche described his background saying: “The first thing voters should know about me is, I am a scientist with a bachelor of science degree from Michigan State University. They should also know that I take community service seriously. I earned my Eagle Scout (ranking) from Troop 473 in Flat Rock and continue to serve there as an assistant scoutmaster. I interned in Washington, D.C., for (U.S. Sen.) Debbie Stabenow and am a young person who understands the challenges my generation faces.”

On why voters should choose him, LaMarche said: “Politics aggravates me. My science training has taught me to learn from failure and alter my views if the facts demand it. That’s why it bothers me when politicians make the same mistakes over and over and refuse to change their opinions, even when the weight of evidence suggesting they should becomes overwhelming. Take the privatization of Michigan prison food services, an idea which has failed many times in the past, yet still was supported by my opponent, Tom Casperson.

“Unlike my opponent, I don’t have friends in any industry I need to give favors to. My campaign is not soliciting donations because I don’t want my vote influenced by anyone with money. If elected, I will be a scientist. With every decision, I will find the existing evidence and make the vote which does the most good, regardless of party, monied interest, or the opinion of powerful friends.”

LaMarche outlined his top three priorities if elected.

“My first priority is repealing anti-union laws passed by our current legislative body. The fact is that increases in union membership lead to decreased income inequality and increased prosperity for all. That’s why laws designed to weaken labor unions like so called ‘Right To Work’ are bad for everyone, not just union members.

“Another priority is to fight for our education system. Today we are torturing our kids with more high stakes tests, paying teachers so little that financial concerns impede their ability to focus on students and pushing for more private charter schools and virtual learning. I believe this is wrong. Instead, I believe in giving students and teachers the flexibility to teach in a way that works best for them and I believe in giving teachers the financial security and small class sizes they need to give their full attention to each student. If we invest in education now, we won’t have to invest in prisons later.

“Finally, we need some science literacy in the Michigan Senate. One of the main reasons I decided to run is because Tom Casperson is, in my opinion, the most scientifically illiterate state senator in Michigan. I have watched as his bills on biodiversity, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Natural Resources have made Michigan the laughing stock of the scientific community. Instead of a senator who is hostile to science, I would like to be something of a liaison between the scientific community and the Michigan Legislature.”

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.