Kick off: Sen. Debbie Stabenow stopped in Houghton to help launch campaign

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (middle), stopped in Houghton Saturday to help kick off the “One Campaign for Michigan” alongside State Rep. Scott Dianda (to her immediate left). Stabenow feels that the Democratic base is “one of the most energized” she has seen since she began running.

HOUGHTON — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow visited the Houghton County Democratic Party headquarters Saturday night, one of several Upper Peninsula stops as part of the kickoff for the “One Campaign for Michigan.”

Stabenow, D-Michigan, is running for her fourth term against Republican John James of Detroit.

Stabenow said the 2018 Democratic campaign is “one of the most energized” she’s seen since she began running.

“I think people understand this really is important, this election, that voting does matter,” she said. “They want to speak up, they want to be engaged.”

Among the issues she plans to tackle are infrastructure, including rural high-speed internet; roads and bridges; water and sewer; and the Soo Locks, of which only two of four are operational. Stabenow helped secure language in Senate legislation to authorize funding for a replacement lock.

Education is another concern. Stabenow plans to address rising college costs and provide support for students looking to go into the skilled trades.

“That’s how we’re going to move our economy,” she said. “We need an economy that works for everybody, gives everybody an opportunity. and if you work hard everybody should be able to be successful.”

The Senate recently approved Stabenow’s Know the Lowest Price Act, which would eliminate gag clauses in Medicare Part D contracts that prevent pharmacists from telling customers when prescription drugs can be obtained more cheaply. She said in a recent study, 23 percent of people paid too much at the pharmacy because of the gag clause.

“That’s wrong, and I’m very pleased that we’re going to ban these gag clauses and pharmacists can work with their patients as they want to be able to actually help them get the lowest price.”

The Great Lakes also continues to be a focus. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on solutions preventing Asian carp from entering the lake. Stabenow also wants to ensure the continued funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has provided funding to areas including Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. The Trump Administration budget for fiscal year 2018 originally eliminated the $300 million plan, which was reversed after Stabenow and other Michigan legislators intervened.

One in five jobs in Michigan is tied to the Great Lakes, Stabenow said.

“We need to be doing research on what we need to do next to protect water quality, to protect fish as well,” she said. “We have a huge boating and fishing industry in Michigan that’s tied to the Great Lakes.”

Following the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Stabenow said she opposes his nomination. She’s troubled by his views against pre-existing conditions for health care, as well as past rulings that she said “have been on the side of polluters instead of clean water.” She is also concerned by writings from his time in the Bush administration advocating a wide construal of presidential power.

“He really believes there’s unlimited presidential power, and in our democracy, we have three branches of government,” she said. “That’s how you keep checks and balances on, and that’s how a democracy works. I would much prefer a different candidate.”

Stabenow’s other stops included meetings with the local Democratic offices in Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette. Locally, she spoke with students at Michigan Tech, and met new President Richard Koubek for the first time.

“I’d talked to the new president on the phone but I hadn’t had the chance to meet him yet … I’m impressed with him,” she said.