Last week, City Pulse endorsed former Vice President Joseph Biden for president. Here are the rest of our recommendations.
The second most important decision facing Michigan voters — after ridding the Oval Office of its current malignancy — is reelecting Gary Peters. Wresting control of the Senate from Republicans will be next to impossible without a Peters victory. His opponent, Republican business owner and military veteran John James, is making it a close contest thanks to a prodigious fundraising effort and boatloads of independent advertising from national Republican interest groups. It’s sad but unsurprising that James’ television ads distort Peters record and misrepresent James’ own support for Republican efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act. Because James is an avowed Trump supporter with a Trumpian relationship with the truth, and because Peters is a no-nonsense, bipartisan workhorse who ably represents the people of Michigan, we endorse Gary Peters for a second term in the U.S. Senate.
Michigan Supreme Court
The Supreme Court was center stage last week, with the court’s four Republican-leaning justices voting to upend the governor’s lifesaving executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brock Swartzle, a Republican nominee for the high court and current justice of the Michigan Court of Appeals, helpfully pointed out in his League of Women Voters candidate questionnaire that the judicial canons governing the conduct of Supreme Court justices require them to “be unswayed by partisan interests.” Of course, the majority of current justices willfully ignored this canon in their ultra-partisan zeal to rein in Whitmer’s emergency powers. We’re not persuaded that Swartzle or Republican nominee Mary Kelly would be any different. We prefer to have as many Democratic-leaning justices on the court as possible, so we endorse Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and attorney Elizabeth M. Welch.
Electing individuals to serve on the governing boards of Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University has always been an exercise in frustration for state voters because so little information is typically available about the candidates. As a result, voters are strongly inclined to make their choices based on party affiliation rather than the candidate’s qualifications. That pattern is unlikely to change, so we’ll save time and space by endorsing the Democratic candidates for all three academic institutions, as well as the State Board of Education.
Two proposals appear on the statewide ballot: Proposal 20-1 changes the distribution and use of oil and gas tax revenues for the acquisition, development and maintenance of Michigan state parks and local parks. The proposal is supported by dozens of environmental and conservation groups, although the Sierra Club is opposed because it believes the state should move away from fossil fuel revenues to fund parks. We agree, but meanwhile we encourage a YES vote on Proposal 20-1.
The second ballot question — Proposal 20-2 —- amends the Michigan Constitution to require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching an individual’s electronic communications, such as cell phone records and emails. Although requiring a warrant may slow some investigations, we stand by the constitutional edict that protects the right of all citizens to be free from unreasonable searches of one’s home and property. A person’s electronic communications are certainly part and parcel of one’s property and should be protected as such. This measure was placed on the statewide ballot by the Legislature with unanimous bipartisan support. We recommend a YES vote on Proposal 20-2.
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
First-term Rep. Elissa Slotkin faces a strong challenge from Republican Paul Junge, who touts his experience as a former Trump Administration official. This alone is a good reason to reelect Slotkin, but there are plenty more: Slotkin’s credentials as a national security analyst who served three tours in Iraq and her thoughtful approach to public policy make her one of the most capable and respected freshman members in the U.S. Congress. Moreover, she restored Lansing’s district office. We wholeheartedly endorse U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin for another two-year term.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Walberg, now seeking his sixth term in office, represents a small slice of west Lansing in Eaton County. For the third time in six years, he faces an aggressive challenge from Gretchen Driskell, a former state representative and the long-time mayor of Saline. Driskell lost, 54-46, to Walberg two years ago. She’s a long shot again in 2020, but a Democratic surge in Michigan could catapult her into the winners’ circle on Election Day. Walberg is a standard-issue Trump Republican who toes the party line. We endorse Gretchen Driskell and hope the third time’s the charm.
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Districts 67, 68, 69 and 71
The capital region is blessed with four strong, capable women serving in the Michigan House of Representatives. Each has performed admirably in office. Julie Brixie (D-69) is a force in the House and a prodigious fundraiser for the Democratic caucus through her Blue Wave Fund, an effort to help Democrats across the state win close races. Sarah Anthony (D-68) is a thoughtful and passionate champion for social justice at a tumultuous time. Kara Hope (D-67) is a steady, sensible voice who ably represents her constituents. Of the four, only Angela Witwer (D-71) has a serious challenger, and that’s mostly due to the close partisan split in her district. Witwer is a small-business owner who has made constituent service a high priority during her first term. She’s a business-friendly Democrat who enjoys support from multiple chambers of commerce. Her opponent, Gina Johnsen, is notable mostly for organizing a law enforcement fundraiser at the Old Country Mill, which discriminates against the LGBQT community by prohibiting same sex marriages at the facility. That’s all we need to know about Johnsen. We endorse State Reps. Kara Hope, Sarah Anthony, Angela Witwer and Julie Brixie.
As much as we would like to endorse Carol Siemon to continue serving as Ingham County’s prosecuting attorney, we hesitate to give her the nod for two reasons: First, her decision to decline City Pulse’s invitation to debate her Republican opponent, George Platsis, denies her constituents (and the media) the opportunity to hear what she has to say about important matters, including questions about her record as prosecutor. Moreover, as a first-termer, her refusal does not bode well for her openness down the road when she is even more secure in the job. Secondly, as we have previously opined, we’re uncomfortable with her continued insistence on flouting the state’s mandatory life in prison sentence for first-degree murder. Her recent plea bargain in a notorious double homicide earned her a stern rebuke from Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who summarily rejected the deal as a matter of “good conscience.” On this point, we stand with Aquilina and again encourage Siemon to reconsider her approach to offering lenient plea bargains in capital murder cases. Although we’re certain she will win, our conscience compels us to decline to endorse in the Ingham County prosecutor’s race.
Other countywide offices
For the most part, Ingham County’s cadre of Democratic countywide elected officials, including Clerk Barb Byrum, Treasurer Eric Schertzing, Register of Deeds Derrick Quinney, Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth, and Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann, perform their jobs capably. We find no compelling reason to turn any of them out of office. We would prefer that the county move toward combining the treasurer and register of deeds positions as a cost-saving measure, but that’s a question for another day.
Board of Commissioners
Of the 14 seats on the county board, 11 are held by Democrats. All of the incumbents except District 13 Commissioner Randy Schafer of Williamston and District 14 Commissioner Robin Case Naeyaert, both Republicans, have opponents this time around. We are content to endorse the slate of Democratic candidates, with the exception of Robert Pena. After defeating first-term commissioner Thomas Morgan in the August primary by just 52 votes, Pena filed a campaign finance waiver that said he would not spend more than $1,000 on his campaign. Given evidence that he has, in fact, spent more than $1,000 and given his evasive answers to our questions on that matter, we cannot endorse a candidate who knowingly flouts campaign finance reporting laws.
One county commission contest is an open seat vacated by Carol Koenig in her bid to become the county’s public defender. Erin Graham is an assistant professor at MSU, chair of the East Lansing School Board and the Democratic nominee to replace Koenig. Her opponent, Crystal Grantham, also failed to respond to the League of Women Voters’ candidate questionnaire. We endorse Erin Graham for the District 9 seat on the Ingham board.
County Ballot Proposal: Senior Services Transportation Renewal
We support the renewal of Ingham County’s dedicated millage that funds senior transportation services.
EATRAN Millage Renewal
Like CATA, EATRAN provides essential public transportation in Eaton County and the dedicated county millage that supports this vital service is up for renewal. Although we believe the region would be better served if CATA and EATRAN merged their services, for the time being it’s important that EATRAN can continue to provide public transit. We recommend a YES vote on the EATRAN millage renewal.
Board of Commissioners
In keeping with our strong preference for electing Democrats at every level, the Eaton County Board of Commissioners is no exception -- with one exception. Based on his unseemly association with shadowy dark money organizations, we decline to endorse District 2 candidate T.J. Buchholz.
There’s a special place for Democrats who decline to say if they support Joe Biden. We get it that Eaton County is purple — but what we get more is now is definitely the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party. Sheriff Tom Reich is putting getting reelected above principal. Or is he one of those law-enforcement officials Trump is crowing support him? His GOP opponent, former state Sen. Rick Jones, gave the same cowardly answer — it’s nobody’s business how he votes — when asked by City Pulse if he was voting for Biden or Trump. A pox on both their houses. We decline to endorse.
30th Circuit Court
Choosing a new judge to succeed retiring Chief Judge Janelle Lawless on the 30th Circuit Court bench is no easy task. A handful of qualified candidates have filed for the position, including former Ingham County Commissioner Carol Koenig, assistant prosecutor Steve Kwasnik, and local attorneys Morgan Elizabeth Cole and Colline Cheltenham. We appreciate Koenig’s progressive politics and Kwasnik’s experience, but we endorse Elizabeth Cole, who strikes us as having both the temperament and experience to serve with distinction on the Circuit Court bench. She is endorsed by Circuit judges Rosemarie Aquilina and Lawless. We concur.
LCC Board of Trustees
Voters have several excellent choices in the race for two seats on the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees. Incumbent trustee Andrew Abood is eminently reasonable and quietly effective as a member of the college’s governing board. Among the contenders for the other seat, all four of the candidates have merit. We like Greg Sinicropi’s business experience, which is often lacking on elected public boards, and Howard Spence brings strong academic credentials to the table. We recommend that voters choose Andrew Abood and either Sinicropi or Spence for the LCC Board.
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