Candidates speak in Ontonagon

Around 140 people attended this past Saturday’s Ontonagon town hall meeting, featuring three Republican candidates for Michigan governor. The forum included Lt. Governor Brian Calley, State Senator Patrick Colbeck, and Dr. Jim Hines.

Questions from the audience ranged everywhere from a lack of transparency within the bureaucracy of state government, especially with the Department of Health and Human Services, to an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights to have guns in a household. The issue of being a foster parent was also addressed.

Other topics included revenue sharing to small rural communities such as Ontonagon, safe and environmentally friendly use of the area’s Natural Resources when it comes to mining, and logging.

The topic of the dredging of the Ontonagon Harbor was addressed. Senator Colbeck repeatedly brought up how the state has to take a stand on the dredging and other issues that are under the management and control of the federal government.

Residents from throughout the western U.P. were in attendance, including a Baraga County hog farmer that has been in a legal battle with the state for eight years. Another audience member was brought to tears when it came to compulsory action on sexual misconduct.

The audience applauded when the topic of how the less populated communities in the Upper Peninsula have not had the votes to get state-elected officials to help them on local and state government issues. This included possible corruption and illegal activities being committed by local officials.

That question prompted Hines to push the people of the Upper Peninsula to “get in a bus and go to the steps of the state capital.”

You will be noticed, especially if I am governor,” said Hines.

“Every person counts,” said Calley. “You have a voice right now. You deserve that opportunity, that’s why we are here today.”

“Most people are interested in what their next office will be,” said Colbeck. “People are marginalized. I’m from Wayne County, and Republicans in that county are really marginalized.”

Colbeck stated that the first office he held was a State Senator, and not a State Representative.

While none of the candidates specifically addressed the fact that current Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is also running for Governor, decided not to attend the Ontonagon town hall, the tone of the comments were best summarized when all three stated that each one of them would make a good Michigan governor.

Before the gubernatorial candidates gave their opening statements, the candidates for Michigan’s 38th State Senate seat, Mike Carey and Ed McBroom, talked about their experience and why they are running for office.

Also speaking at the beginning of the Ontonagon town hall were the Republican candidates for Michigan’s 110th State Representative Seat, Dr. Kirk Schott and Greg Markkanen.

Markkanen, from Hancock, has been a teacher for 33 years, from elementary to community college. Markkanen served in the 82nd Airborne Division and is currently a teacher in the Baraga School District.

“I know how important education is to our state,” said Markkanen.

Schott opened by talking about the election of Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican president.

“Honest Abe is what he was called,” said Schott. “Being honest, raise your hand if you came here this morning to hear me speak.”

No one raised their hand.

“You came here to listen to these three running for Michigan governor,” said Schott.

A sixth generation “yooper,” Carey talked about the exodus of our youth leaving the Upper Peninsula.

“The life-moving moment for my wife and I was when our daughter, who was teaching in Detroit said she’s coming home,” said Carey. “She got a job in the U.P.”

Carey stated how the U.P. can protect the environment while also promoting our natural resources, “which we are good at.”

Carey’s opponent in the primary is McBroom, a former State Representative and a Dickinson County Dairy Farmer. McBroom stated that education and jobs are major priorities if he is elected to the seat currently held by Tom Casperson.

“Whether it is the protection of our land or our jobs, this is important to me,” said McBroom.

McBroom showed his pride in his family of five children and his wife.

The moderator of the event was the former attorney for the Village of Ontonagon, Ted Baird.

“The feedback that I received from all of the candidates and their staffs was uniformly outstanding,” said Baird. “The gubernatorial candidates all separately said that the questions were the most diverse and most detailed of any of the town halls.

“I can personally verify those statements based on the two town halls I watched. We also received praise from most candidates and many audience members on the organization and communication associated with our town hall.”

The event was hosted by the Ontonagon County Republican Party.