Open seats often mean crowded primary elections, and that’s the situation in the 60th State House District that includes the City of Kalamazoo. Representative Sean McCann will leave the House after two terms because he’s running for State Senate. For years the 60th has been considered a “safe” House district for Democrats and that's attracted three candidates seeking their party’s nomination to replace McCann.
Two of the candidates hoping to be the Democratic standard-bearer in the 60th are local elected officials. The other is a well-known political operative. As is often the case in primaries, they don’t disagree much on the issues. They all say taxes must be increased to fix roads and that the state should spend more on education. And all three say Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage should be overturned. So, rather than debating those points, they hope their different experiences and backgrounds will set them apart.
Pamela Brown Goodacre has served as a Kalamazoo Township trustee for two years and is a part-time instructor at the University of Michigan. Goodacre says she has real world experience that would make her a good legislator, including years spent trying to get by with minimum-wage jobs.
"And I have an ability to see this and have an experience of knowing what we need and I don't have to ask that because I'm a stakeholder here, and have been a stakeholder for a long time, and will continue to be a stakeholder here. On the other side, there are things that have to be done. And the status quo is one of the reasons that I am running because we have to get in and change things for the new millennium. And if people are looking to move us to the direction of progression and technology and science, then I'm the person for you."
The other elected official in the 60th District Democratic primary has served on the Kalamazoo County Commission for 20 years. Dave Buskirk is a retired electrician who says that experience has taught him the value of seeking consensus to get things done. Buskirk says he’s done that at the local level and can translate that experience to the state capitol, where bi-partisanship has been notably lacking in recent years.
"My experience and leadership capabilities within this community allow me to have built relationships that allow me to sit down with different people at different places and try and build consensus. I think we've done that over the years. I think that one of the things I pledge to do, and we signed this pledge on April 16th when I filed my paperwork, that my pledge to the residents of the 60th District is to run an open and honest campaign. I'll serve with integrity and use my skills, my leadership skills, to benefit the people of the 60th District and the State of Michigan. And I will be a continuous consensus-builder to get things done here in the State of Michigan."
But the third Democrat in the primary says local elected experience doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the rough-and-tumble of Lansing politics. Jon Hoadley has not held elective office but has played prominent roles in political campaigns. He helped lead the successful campaign for Kalamazoo’s ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And Hoadley served as the campaign manager for other candidates, including Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Bridget McCarthy.
"And one of the things that's different is that, when we go to Lansing, you've got to figure out how to advocate in a caucus of 50-plus. You're going to be working with lawmakers from across the state, and folks that you're not going to see every day. Unlike the county commission or the city commission, you're not going to run into them at the grocery store or at church, so it is a different set of assets and skills needed, one that I've been doing because I've been doing that work, whether we're talking about environmental issues; we're talking about women’s issues; we're talking about labor issues or economic issues; I've been doing that work for over a decade. And so that's why I'm ready when it comes to making a difference in policy on Day One in Lansing."
The winner of the Democratic primary in the 60th State House District August 5th will face Republican Mike Perrin in November. The Kalamazoo Chapter of the League of Women Voters has a guide to candidates and issues on the primary ballot.