BY LEAH CRAIG
The Public Policy Committee of Brighton’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate meet-and-greet event Friday for community shareholders to speak with and learn about those aspiring to serve Livingston County in the state government.
The candidates that attended represented the races for Michigan State Senate District 22 as well as State House of Representatives Districts 48 and 49. Both candidates from House District 50, incumbent Republican Bob Bezotte and Democratic challenger Glen Miller, were unable to attend. That district covers a substantial portion of Livingston County.
Participants were asked to introduce themselves and provide a brief synopsis of their policy plans, elaborating on how they intend to serve the community in the state legislature, with an emphasis on how it would impact local business owners.
Lana Theis, the Republican incumbent, is seeking a second term in the Michigan State Senate. Theis currently serves as chair of several State Senate Committees, including Insurance and Banking and Education. If re-elected, Theis promises to continue cutting taxes for business owners, as well as reducing commercial auto insurance rates.
“A lot of what good government is,” Theis said, “is getting out of the way of business. We need to reduce the regulatory obligations.”
On the topic of financial issues, Democrat Jordan Genso says that the key to bettering the community and government is by promoting a healthier business climate. If elected to the Michigan State Senate, one of Genso’s goals would be to ensure an “even playing field” that allows for small businesses to flourish without interference from larger entities. Much of his campaign platform is a response to the polarization and increased division that characterize the contemporary political sphere.
The resulting scenarios are inevitably, as Genso described, situations of “polarized opposites, where one side wins and the other loses, and everyone’s upset.”
“It’s not a healthy climate for business to operate in,” he added. “As long as this is how our politics are, our businesses are going to be suffering.”
As a result, Genso’s primary philosophy revolves around engaging with those across the political spectrum to find common ground, compromises, and solutions rather than being constrained by partisan ideology.
Although Republican Jason Woolford didn’t provide an outline of his proposed policy, he elaborated extensively on the beliefs that inform his political priorities. Woolford, who’s currently vying for Michigan’s House District 48, is a Marine Corps Veteran and minister, is particularly concerned with what he described as an “attack on our freedom.” Chief among his ideologies are the topics of parents’ rights in education, supporting the military and the Second Amendment, and the “right to religious liberty.” While he spoke passionately, Woolford’s plan for addressing his identified issues was minimal.
A former New York Times journalist, Democrat Jennifer Conlin is well-versed in local affairs, particularly in the realm of small business. Conlin noted that approximately 50% of Michigan’s workforce is small businesses, adding that the best way to help small businesses, many of which are still recovering from the Pandemic, is through a series of grants. Such grants, she explained, are designed to “help with the rising costs, hiring as people return to work, and expanding your businesses. “ Over $100 million has already been “funneled” to facilitate the “growth of 2,600 of Michigan’s small businesses.” In addition, Conlin proposed investing in education, skilled trades training, and affordable childcare as means of bolstering the workforce.
Ann Bollin, the incumbent Republican for Michigan’s 49th House District, made it clear that her campaign platform hasn’t changed from the last elections. The primary goal, she explained, is continuing to fight for a strong economy, “working hard to ensure that the state budget is a sustainable one, limiting long term liabilities, and reducing debt.”
Bollin currently serves as the House Assistant Majority Floor Leader, as well as Chair of the Elections and Ethics Committee. Bollin cites finances as one of the main reasons she initially ran for state representative, and prides herself on being a “budget hawk”.
Bollin described the main tenets of her platform as being “anything that supports strong families, safe communities, and a strong business climate”, and elaborated on her willingness to fight for those beliefs.
Democrat Christina Kafkakis is a relative newcomer to the world of Livingston County politics. Kafkakis was compelled to run for the 49th House District Seat after navigating her own small business through the Pandemic. COVID, as she pointed out, highlighted some of the flaws in business practices, but also allowed for new perspectives. To address such challenges, she advocates for identifying perspectives that promote the success of both employers and employees. Her primary goal in campaigning is a simple but crucial one: listening to community members, and, should she be elected, working with them to ensure their needs are represented and addressed at the State level.
The forum offered an in-depth look at the beliefs and campaign platforms of those aspiring to best represent Livingston County residents.
For more information on upcoming elections, including candidate lists and polling locations, visit the Livingston County Clerk Elections Division.