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Wednesday, August 1,2012

3 open House seats draws blue interest

by Kyle Melinn
If a Blue Moon typically comes once a year, what label can be pinned on this coincidence: All three Ingham County state representatives are term limited out of office in the same year, which happened in 2006, as well? Blue Ingham? 

It would be appropriate seeing that all three office holders are Democrats and the Dem primaries in the 67th, 68th and 69th districts are all competitive. 

Republicans have a 50/50 shot at claiming the long-sought south Lansing, rural Ingham County seat in the 67th. The numbers are stacked against them in the 69th, but they have a moderate candidate there. The Democratic base in the 68th is 73 percent, making a GOP victory there beyond slim.

But, still, voters are picking their party preference Tuesday. The following is a rundown of all of the candidates:


67th District (Democratic)

Tom Cochran, 59, the former Lansing fire chief and a Mason School Board member, is the UAW-backed candidate with 28 years in the Lansing Fire Department. He has extended experience on local public safety and labor boards. 

While running as a sensible, cost-cutting moderate, he’s been charged by one opponent with trying to have it both ways on the spending and taxing issue in his mailers.

That opponent is Walt Sorg, 61, a former radio show host and long-time state employee, a 46-year mid-Michigan resident and former senior adviser to a House speaker. He has the support of two former Democratic governors, four former Democratic speakers and numerous other local elected officials.

Sorg wants to make expansion of electric car recharging options easier, but is being hit in an anonymous robocall on claims that the Chevy Volt owner is doing so for self-serving reasons.

Jerry Ketchum, 64, is a three-time elected member of the Delhi Township Board. A retired Department of Transportation employee, Ketchum is backed by the SEIU. He’s a pro-gun and pro-life candidate who does not support gay marriage or civil unions.


67th District (Republican)

The GOP’s 2010 nominee, Jeffrey Oesterle, is back after a six-point loss to Byrum. Oesterle, 61, is a farmer and past president of the Ingham County Farm Bureau. He’s been active with the Ingham-Livingston County Fair Service Agency, the MSU Ingham County Extension and the Mason Chamber of Commerce. The pro-life candidate was the Vevay Township supervisor and board member for 20 years.

His opponent is Ashley Kring, 23, a recent Grand Valley State University graduate in finance and economics. She’s making her first run for office and has the support of longshot U.S. Senate candidate Randy Hekman.


68th District (Democratic)

If Lansing/Lansing Township voters think they’ve seen these names before, it’s because they have. All but two of the candidates in the 68th have appeared on a ballot before. 

The exceptions are Anne Clayton and Griffin Rivers, and Rivers has been involved in local politics for years. Rivers, 72, is a former Ingham County Democratic Party chairman, Louisiana prison administrator and lead staffer for a former House Appropriations Committee chairman. He’s backed by former Mayor Tony Benavides, former Rep. Michael Murphy and sitting councilmembers Carol Wood and Derrick Quinney.

Clayton, 52, is in her fifth year teaching biology at Lansing Community College. She’s lived in Lansing since 2004 and in the Lansing area since 1994.

Three candidates are officeholders and two of them serve together on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. Dale Copedge, 55, began serving in 2005. He retired this year from the state Department of Environmental Quality after 28 years. He’s volunteered for several local charities and served on several nonprofit boards and commissions such as the Lansing Public Service Board and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The SEIU is backing him.

Andy Schor, 37, began serving on the commission in 2003 and is on leave from the Michigan Municipal League. He’s staffed for two former state legislators and been endorsed by various unions, Michigan NOW, and nearly the entire Michigan Democratic House caucus. Two former state representatives are backing him as well as a half of the Ingham County Board.

Lansing City Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson, 43, has twice been elected to represent the 3rd Ward. A former City Council president, Robinson previously worked as a special assistant in the Jackson School District. She served on Ingham County’s Equal Opportunity Commission and the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan board.

Former Lansing City Councilman Harold Leeman, 54, is trying to resurrect his political career after three consecutive losses for the Council and the Ingham County Commission. First elected in 1995, the longtime Lansing east sider was first defeated in 2007. In his most recent bid for public office he didn’t get past the primary.

The final candidate is Ted O’Dell, 46, a 2009 unsuccessful Lansing School Board candidate who is best known for his work on the Lansing Jobs Coalition, where he led a non-binding petition drive to bring a Native American casino to Lansing. He served 11 years as a legislative staffer and has local government experience, too.


68th District (Republican)

In a rare primary, Timothy Moede, 58, is back after earning 27 percent in 2010. The retired Lansing Fire Department battalion chief worked in disaster relief in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after major flooding damaged that town. He has U.S. Air Force service on his record. He’ll face first-time candidate Michael Wing, an administrator and former compliance officer.


69th District (Democratic)

The notably competitive primary between Sam Singh and Susan Schmidt could be the most watched race in the Lansing area. Singh, 41, is a former East Lansing mayor who was first elected to the City Council at age 24. A consultant for Public Policy Associates, he is the former president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association. He’s been endorsed by the UAW, SEIU and numerous other organized labor groups as well as more than 50 current and former elected officials.

Schmidt, 55, is a former East Lansing School Board chairwoman and school board member who served as state Rep. Mark Meadows’ chief of staff. She is adjunct faculty at Lansing Community College, specializing in remedial learning. Schmidt taught learning disabled children at Reo Elementary for 11 years before working for Meadows. She’s backed by the County Road Association, several public safety organizations and about a dozen current and former elected officials.


69th District (Republican)

Who would have guessed three Republicans would run in this 61 percent Democratic district made up of East Lansing and Meridian Township? Republican Gov. Rick Snyder won the district narrowly over Virg Bernero two years ago, so anything is possible.

Frank Lambert, 46, is a General Motors line worker and former self-employed contractor who has run for the Legislature the last four campaign cycles. He lost in the 2010 GOP primary in the 69th to current opponent Susan McGillicuddy. 

McGillicuddy, 58, the 12-year Meridian Township supervisor, is the architect of the Meridian Green Space Plan, a 745-acre land preservation program. She has years of experience on various planning, economic development and environmental protection boards.

Finally, George Nastas III, 67, of Haslett is a retired author and program analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. The 35-year district resident won 42 percent of the vote for Ingham County Commission two years ago.



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