Sheridan candidates forum introduces political hopefuls to Montcalm County

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 8:47 am on Friday, July 18, 2014

VFW 5065 Commander Donald Rule delivers a welcome speech to an audience of more than 60 people Thursday evening at the Sheridan VFW Post for the Meet the Candidates forum. — Daily News/Kyle Wilson

SHERIDAN — With the Aug. 5 primary election quickly approaching, Thursday evening proved to be an informative event for more than 60 people who attended the “Meet the Candidates” event at the Sheridan VFW Post.

Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan representatives from five races introduced themselves and their reasons for running throughout the two-hour event.

The forum included candidates or their representatives for the 3rd and 4th Congressional districts, 33rd District State Senate, 70th District State Representative and 64B District Court Judge.

Audience members submitted specific questions to various candidates throughout the evening, who took the opportunity to answer the questions to the best of their ability.


4th Congressional District

Four candidates consisting of three Republicans, Peter Konetchy, John Moolenaar and Paul Mitchell, and one Democrat, Dr. Jeff Holmes, are vying for the position that has been held by Dave Camp for 23 years.

Konetchy, Moolenaar and Mitchell will compete for the Republican ticket on Aug. 5, with the winner of that election to face Holmes in the November General Election.

Konetchy of Roscommon, who earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Michigan State University, has been small businessman since the 1980s working primarily in accounting for Michigan law firms.

At the forum, Konetchy said he believes the biggest problem facing the nation now is the government is not limited enough.

“I truly understand that this nation is the greatest that has ever faced the Earth and the reason is because we have a severely limited federal government,” he said. “The federal government’s sole duty is to secure the liberty of the people and I truly understand that.”

Konetchy went on to say he believes the current federal government has been steadily destroying the country’s education system, as well as the nation’s work ethic, and believes change is in order.

When asked how he could change a dysfunctional Congress, he stated that more discipline is needed and the Constitution needs to be followed more strictly, as well as give more power to the states.

Moolenaar has served as senator of District 36 in Michigan for three years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Hope College and earned his master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.

“Most recently I’ve been a part of the team that’s been working to turn Michigan around by paying down our debt, balancing our budget, and putting money in our rainy day fund,” he said. “Those are some of the things that I think we could use in Washington D.C.

Moolenaar said he believes his experience is key and also stated, if elected, he will work to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Common Core standards for education.

When asked how he could change a dysfunctional Congress, Moolenaar said coalitions need to be formed and common ground needs to be found throughout Congress.

“You try to look for the best in others and stick to your principles,” he said. “In Michigan, we’re turning it around because we have a team of people working together.”

In regards to making cuts, Moolenaar said Washington, D.C., has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and cuts would be needed.

“We need to get that under control,” he said. “I’m interested in the Penny Plan, which reduces spending by 1 percent each year and gets us toward a balanced budget.”

Holmes, of Alma, has worked as a physician at Alma Family Practice for 24 years after graduating from Michigan State University and Wayne State University Medical School.

“My whole life has been involved with service, and that is what motivated me to consider entering the race,” he said. “I want to try to help to make a difference for our district, our state and our nation.”

When asked about the Affordable Care Act, Holmes said he was in support of the measure, having worked as a physician and seeing direct results of the act.

Holmes said he has had several younger patients in their mid-20s discover signs of cancer during check-ups much earlier than they would have without health insurance.

“For about $800, they are cured of cancer,” he said. “If they waited until it was systematic, they would have had a much more advanced disease, costing anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000. The Affordable Care Act is saving money … and it’s been a big improvement for my patients and for our practice.”

More than 60 people attended the Meet the Candidates forum at the Sheridan VFW Post Thursday evening to hear from candidates from five upcoming primary and general election races. — Daily News/Kyle Wilson

Holmes said on the business side of the Affordable Care Act, changes are needed and things need to be corrected.

Holmes also said that he believes early childhood education is very important, and approves of the federal Common Core standards.

Due to a conflict, Mitchell of Thomas Township was not able to attend. Charles Mulholland spoke on his behalf.

“Paul is concerned about America’s future and frustrated with Washington by a government that has grown too expansive, too intrusive, too oppressive and too costly.”

Mulholland said Mitchell has experienced firsthand the obstacles that career positions place on job creators.


3rd Congressional District

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, and Republican challenger Brian Ellis, were not able to attend Thursday evening’s candidate forum.


33rd District State Senate

Running for Michigan’s 33rd District State Senate is incumbent Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, and Democratic candidate Fred Sprague. Both candidates will appear on the General Election ballot in November.

Judy Emmons has served as the senator for three years, and previously served in the House of Representatives from 2002 through 2008.

Emmons focused the majority of her time explaining Proposal 1 on the August ballot.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and no understanding because it is a complex verbiage on this particular proposal regarding personal property tax,” she said. “It is manufacturers and businesses that pay this property tax.”

Emmons said the proposal would eliminate the personal property tax, replacing it with monies from businesses that have received tax credits, offsetting the personal property tax.

“It’s a bipartisan effort and it helps growth in the state of Michigan,” she said. “This money goes for public safety, fire safety, schools, things in our local areas.”

Democratic candidate Fred Sprague, who is a licensed professional counselor, said he is focused on three specific items: the economy, the environment and education.

Sprague said he would put a large focus on the middle class in Michigan, concentrating his efforts there for improving the economy.

Sprague said had he been in office, he would have voted in favor of renewable energy initiatives in Michigan.

“Germany produces 79 percent of its electricity through solar energy, and it’s a shame that we’re not doing that here,” he said.

On education, Sprague said the state has “systematically disinvested” in education.

He added that he would like to make sure that school funding finds its way directly into teachers’ classrooms.


70th District State Representative

Incumbent Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, is unopposed in the Republican primary. Democratic candidates Ken Hart and James Hoisington will compete for in the Democratic primary on the Aug. 5 ballot.

Outman has served as the 70th District Representative for three years and is currently in his second term. He believes Michigan is heading in the right direction.

“If what I was doing while not in office was not effective … if this place isn’t a better place because I served for my six years, I’ll feel like a failure,” he said. “But I look back at what we’ve done, and nationally we’re called the turnaround state. I want to continue that turnaround. We’re moving in the right direction”

Outman said a balanced budget and paying down longterm debt are direct signs that Michigan is currently doing things right.

Hart of Alma said he is running because of problems he has witnessed with the department of corrections.

“I’m sick and tired,” he said. “(The State) is taking our pensions. I’m tired of them beating down the department of corrections. I won’t allow for (privatization). We need to go back to a standard food service program.”

Hart added that he is “very pro education.”

Hoisington of Stanton introduced himself as a “struggling middle class man” and former Electrolux worker of 27 years.

Hoisington said he is worried about the future of his children, stating that they are his incentive for entering the race for state representative.

“The biggest threat to democracy is the demise of a strong middle class,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to see corporate boards running our country, K-12 schools, and our colleges and universities.”

Hoisington said he believes there needs to be a stronger nonpartisan effort in Lansing to bring jobs back to the region, close loopholes in tax laws and return to fair taxation for seniors, working middle class and the poor.

“Michigan must be competitive in the global economy by providing world class education,” he said. “We must stop cutting funding to our schools.”


64B District Court Judge

Nonpartisan candidates Judge Donald Hemingsen, Kathleen Dunne and Ronald Finegood will be on the Aug. 5 ballot, where the field will then be narrowed to two candidates for the November General Election.

Hemingsen has served as a district court judge for 64B District Court for 18 years. He graduated from Michigan State University and the Detroit College of Law, serving as a lawyer in Stanton from 1978 to 1996.

Hemingsen pointed to his trial experience and programs that have been initiated to combat alcohol abuse and domestic violence as reasons that he should be elected.

“I’m very proud of the programs we’ve originated and developed, particularly the programs to combat substance abuse and the five programs to combat alcohol abuse,” he said.

Hemingsen said he believes being free of violence is a basic human right, and applauded the current domestic violence programs that have been instituted during his tenure.

Hemingsen said he is also proud of a work release program that has been initiated for jail inmates.

“I believe that those programs are just a few of the programs that we have instituted that have resulted in my being endorsed by every attorney … who has a law office in Montcalm County, with the exception of my two honorable opponents,” he said.

Dunne of Greenville, a graduate of Kalamazoo College and Thomas Cooley Law School, said she has spent the bulk of her career in private practice in “all areas that are relevant to district court.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the downturn in the economy and the effect it has had on the citizens of this community,” she said.

She said that downturn has led to behavioral changes, and increases in meth and heroin use.

Dunne said if elected she would like to implement a specific drug court.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to the growing drug problem,” she said. “A drug court diverts people from traditional criminal proceeds to a more rehabilitative process. It’s designed to treat the root of the problem which is the substance abuse.”

Dunne added that she would also like to implement a teen court that would address youths before they are first charged in juvenile court.

Finegood of Stanton has been practicing law for 35 years after graduating from the Detroit College of Law.

Finegood pointed to his experience in different courts throughout the state and beyond state borders as a qualification for running for district court judge.

“I believe in personal responsibility and accountability,” he said. “I believe in treating everybody with respect and dignity. Most importantly, in my court room, there will never be any favoritism.”

Finegood said he would work to make sure that regardless of a courtroom verdict, people would be able to walk away saying that they had a fair chance to speak for themselves.

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