Getting to know primary election candidates for the U.S., State House of Representatives

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — In an effort to help voters get to know the candidates on the Tuesday, Aug. 7, primary election ballot, the Pioneer asked candidates for the U.S. and State House of Representatives to answer questions about their candidacy.

In the 4th Congressional District Republican race for the House, incumbent John Moolenaar is running unopposed. Jerry Hilliard and Zigmond Kozicki are running against each other for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

William Barnett is running against incumbent Michele Hoitenga in the 102nd District Republican race for State Representative.

In the 102nd District Democratic race for State Representative, Dion Adams is running against Bruce Reges.

Incumbent State Rep. Jason Wentworth is running unopposed in the 97th District Republican race. For the Democratic Party nomination, Bob Townsend is running against Celia Young-Wenkel.

Moolenaar, Hilliard, Wentworth and Adams were contacted in regard to answering the questions posed by the Pioneer, but did not provide a response.

Polls will be open to voters from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 7.

4th Congressional District House of Representative Democratic Race

Why did you decide to run for office?

Zigmond Kozicki: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 creates the conditions that will lead to the closing of 54 Michigan hospitals.


Privatization of public education undermines opportunity for all Americans. The lack of initiative by the current congressman to serve all the people and to develop the boundless resources of the 4th Congressional District demonstrates political maleficence. The role of a U.S. Congressman is to represent all of the 750,000 people who can’t be in Washington, D.C. We need new people with better ideas representing everyone in Washington, D.C.

What do you believe are the two most pressing issues facing your district? Prioritize them. What, if anything, do you plan to do about these issues if you are elected?

Kozicki: First, stop the closing of hospitals and of public schools and farm foreclosures.

Second, preventing the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. Seek bipartisan legislation to stop Medicare cuts to hospitals. Seek new federal funding to assist in the transition of the 54 at-risk Michigan hospitals into becoming population health centers.

By protecting Social Security and expanding Medicare incrementally, we can provide affordable and accessible health care for everyone. I will vote against privatization of Social Security or Medicare. I would propose enrolling people into Medicare at birth and incrementally lower the age of Medicare eligibility by 10 years over a 10-year period.

Public education needs to be realigned to prepare Americans for jobs that require skills many Americans graduating from school do not currently possess. We should consider modern public education as involving trade schools, community college and university degrees. The government should make community college and university training affordable. We need to stop diverting public funds into for-profit schools.

Community college should be an extension of public education and tuition free to Americans.

I would seek bipartisan support to create new Michigan based Agra-processing centers and improve transportation methods to ship farm product from the 4th Congressional District to global markets.

I will oppose the use of tariffs as a negotiating tool and begin courting manufactures in regions experiencing water shortages and encourage them to move to Michigan.

I will continue to advocate for a water center in mid-Michigan to protect our drinking water and to improve water related economic development.

102nd District State Representative Republican Race

Why did you decide to run for office?

William Barnett: Citizens across the district from law enforcement, road commissions and education have asked me to run.


The police are disappointed because switchblades, tinted windows in vehicles, brass knuckles, stun guns and dangerous pepper spray have all been legalized, or will be. Police retirements were also targeted for cuts.

Background checks for concealed pistol licenses were not supported by our representative. An attempt was also made to completely end the requirement for a concealed pistol license and training for the license.

Rural broadband legislation was almost monopolized away from municipalities as they wanted to put towers in highway right-of-ways and fall-zones.

Our district’s road commissions lost out to our legislator’s wealthy campaign donors i.e., AT&T and Comcast.

Education also continues to be harmed. Our legislator voted to redirect funding away from public schools and supported other changes that have led to the trend of fewer prospective teachers entering the teaching field and graduating from Michigan’s colleges.

I will represent the people of this district and not the financial interests of outside lobbyists, special interests, PACs or major donors. I will not have financial conflicts of interest stemming from these groups and will not answer to anyone but our local citizens and their interests. I will never accept these re-election monies or accept the single-issue endorsements.

Our representative has also not delivered on the income tax roll-back, auto insurance reform nor rural broadband.

I will not bend on the support of family values, faith, life or the Second Amendment.

Michele Hoitenga: I initially ran for State Representative in 2016 because laws were negatively affecting my own household. My health insurance premiums skyrocketed, our family business was stagnant and my son was in the military at a time when the military was being dismantled. I can honestly say our families are better off now than we were two years ago.

I want to continue the work here in Michigan that we started, including continued efforts to lower auto insurance premiums and lowering taxes.

When elected in 2016, I was honorably appointed as the chair of the Communications and Technology Committee in the House of Representatives, and this position has allowed me to spearhead efforts to bring broadband to unserved areas of our district. Broadband and cell phone service is sparse throughout rural Michigan and I am diligently working to bring access to those areas.

I have been highly accessible and transparent to folks during my time in office with regular coffee hours, social media, newsletters, attending events and making my cell phone number available to those who I serve.

I was recently recognized as a top-rated legislator for opposing cronyism legislation. In addition, my bill (HB4636) was honorably named the best anti-female genital mutilation legislation in the nation. I introduced this bill when it was found that little girls were undergoing FGM in Michigan.

Our district deserves an effective leader and I’ve proven I am just that person. I work hard and have built respectful relationships with constituents and legislative colleagues.

What do you believe are the two most pressing issues facing your district? Prioritize them. What, if anything, do you plan to do about these issues if you are elected?

Barnett: Roads and infrastructure are the state’s number one financial priority. We need to spend a greater and more consistent level of funding every year if we are going to repair our crumbling streets and bridges i.e., at least $2 billion annually.

This area of the budget has been seriously underfunded for many years and some cost-neutral changes in the budget process need to be made to meet these concerns. It will take at least two decades to achieve the quality of roads our district deserves.

Also, our district needs to receive our fair share of these monies and those dollars need to come directly to the road commissions and municipalities so we have local control of the planning and spending. Legislators recently found themselves with a $500-million surplus in next year’s budget and only put 60 percent of that into roads and infrastructure. Then, no income tax cut was provided from the remainder of that surplus.

A second priority is that Michigan needs an immediate statewide vote on a part-time legislative proposal that would cut legislative salaries in half, limiting their time with lobbyists in Lansing.

Also needed is an immediate statewide vote for reasonable auto insurance reform that would either continue to approve or disallow lifetime catastrophic care. Our state’s voters approved this type of coverage in the 1990’s. Lansing has failed us on both of these issues. I would support a statewide vote on both issues to remove the politics and stalemate from each matter.

Hoitenga: I have knocked on thousands of doors, speaking with folks around the district and it is clear that reforming Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance laws are a top priority among the people I represent.

The cost of owning a vehicle in Michigan is exorbitant, from the registration fees to the auto insurance companies. People who are living paycheck-to-paycheck are having to choose between making a house payment or driving a vehicle legally.

I have consistently been an outspoken opponent of the current system and I will continue to fight for reform.

There are so many things we can do to drive premiums down; creating transparency in the catastrophic claims fund, coverage level options, limiting attorney compensations, combating the excessive fraud in the system and so forth.

I sit on the insurance committee for the sole reason of fighting for lower auto insurance rates, and I will not stop until we have achieved that goal.

The second issue I hear about most is the need for more money for roads and infrastructure. As a former mayor, I know how local governments operate and fighting for more revenue sharing remains a priority for me.

Our local tax dollars should stay local and updating the revenue sharing formula can help fix this deficit. Maintaining infrastructure and roads should be a priority use of our tax dollars.

102nd District State Representative Democratic Race

Why did you decide to run for office?

Bruce Reges: I decided to run for office at the request of the state Democratic Party, and because I feel there needs to be a fundamental change in our state legislature.

The past eight years the Republicans have had complete control, and they have used their time to help the “few” over the needs of all citizens. This needs to be changed. It is my honor to stand up and believe we can do better for all of our citizens, not just the elite.

What do you believe are the two most pressing issues facing your district? Prioritize them. What, if anything, do you plan to do about these issues if you are elected?

Reges: Nestle Corporation is removing literally millions of gallons of our precious water resource for virtually nothing. This issue must be addressed. I feel a surtax of 10 cents a gallon of water removed is not unreasonable.

I have tried repeatedly to contact Nestle International in Switzerland to see if I can meet with them to go over our concerns, and possibly some solutions, they have ignored my requests, even though I have a ticket in hand to go to Switzerland anytime they agree to meet me.

The second issue that must be addressed is the suicide rate of our veterans. On average, 22 veterans end their lives everyday. We need to do more for our veterans who have given so much.

97th District State Representative Democratic Race

Why did you decide to run for office?

Bob Townsend: I feel strongly those that are successful in the private sector — I’m a small business owner — should consider making the sacrifice in their lives and businesses to serve the public. I would be honored to serve the people of the 97th and only the people of the 97th and the state.

I do not accept special interest money, nor do I seek endorsements of the special interests. Rather than ask the 97th to send money to my campaign, I simply ask each of my supporters to encourage five people to go to the polls on Aug. 7th to vote for the candidate that appeals to them.

I consider myself a statesman rather than a politician.

Celia Young-Wenkel: I have been politically active for most of the past 30 years, but never as involved as I have been for the past couple of years and especially the two weeks leading up to Nov. 10, 2017.

My activity during that time culminated in a trip to Lansing with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.

I also was inspired by the election results in Virginia on Tuesday, the 7th. That Friday, I decided it was time for me to step up and serve the people of the 97th District in the best way I knew how.

My roots in the district are deep. I worked for the Department of Health and Human Services in the 97th District for my entire career, mostly as a Children’s Protective Services worker. I spent my teen years in Gladwin County, I worked in both Clare and Arenac counties, and I have lived in Arenac County the past 23 years. It seemed like a perfect fit.

What do you believe are the two most pressing issues facing your district? Prioritize them. What, if anything, do you plan to do about these issues if you are elected?

Townsend: Auto insurance is artificially high and can be made more cost effective by controlling the costs of catastrophic care and by changing the way insurance companies set rates.

As a veteran, former P/C evaluator for the Veterans Administration, and one that works with veterans to help them get their benefits, I will work hard in Lansing for them.

The opioid crisis is very important to me. As an addiction medicine physician, I would like to approach it from a public health rather than a criminal standpoint.

Young-Wenkel: Two of my top priorities are healthcare and public K-12 education versus for profit K-12 education.

Healthcare is our largest employer in each of our counties in the 97th District. If elected, I would fight to maintain and increase the recipients who are benefiting from the medicaid expansion.

Healthcare for all not only saves lives, it creates jobs. As far as education, I would fight to reduce the amount of state aid per pupil that goes to the online public charter schools and use the money to enhance our traditional public school system. I would increase the accountability in the charter school systems.

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