Michigan’s 62nd House District will send a new representative to Lansing next year.
Democrat Kate Segal currently holds the seat but can’t run again because of term limits. Three Democrats hope to replace her in the district that includes Battle Creek and Albion. So do two Republicans.
In the second of a two-part series, WMUK looks at where the race’s Republican candidates stand on the issues. (The first story looked at the Democrats in the race.)
Art Kale says his experience in politics would serve him well if he were elected to the 62nd House District seat. John Bizon says the same of his background. They agree in some areas and diverge in others.
Kale is the current chairman of the Calhoun County Commission. He also served with the White House Advance Team in the last three years of the Bush administration.
“They don’t give you that responsibility unless you get things done, you’re a hard worker and you pay attention to details,” he says.
Bizon is the former president of the Michigan State Medical Society. He hasn’t held elected office before. But he says his experience with the MSMS showed him the value of running for office. When he lobbied on behalf of the Medical Society, he found that elected officials wanted to hear from other elected officials.
“It became perfectly obvious at that time if one wants to make a difference, if one wants to really promote change, that you may have to do that as an insider rather than an outsider,” he says.
The Michigan legislature recently voted to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour by 2018. But Kale says the state would be better off with no minimum wage. He points to his experience as a manager at a manufacturing plant.
“We weren’t paying minimum wage, we were paying a little bit above it. It got to a point where we couldn’t hire people. So the market dictated we had to raise our wages and we did. And I'd just as soon see that continue, let the market dictate what the wages should be,” he says.
Bizon says the state should be careful not to set the minimum wage too high. It could drive up prices, he says, and maybe cause people to lose their jobs. But he wouldn’t scrap it altogether.
“We need a floor. We need a place to start and the exact place, I’m not certain of,” he says.
No statehouse candidate can escape the road issue this year. Voters want to know where lawmakers will find the money needed to fix the state’s roads and bridges. Kale says he might support a “minimal” vehicle registration fee increase to pay for road repairs. But first he’d like the state to re-examine its budget.
“I don’t think anything’s off the table as far as looking at all the programs at the state level. All the programs. To see where we can cut the fat out to get them into the roads,” he says.
Kale says he would want voters to approve any raise of the gas tax.
Bizon says he would reluctantly consider a tax increase to pay for road repairs. And he adds that the state should consider requiring road contractors to “guarantee” their work.
“In the 1930s, Germany was making roads that lasted 30, 40, 50, 70 years, and it just astounds me that we can’t make roads that last more than a season when the technology is out there,” he says.
Then there are the so-called social issues. Kale says it should be illegal to deny someone housing or a job based on sexual orientation. That would require changes to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Kale says the law needs to change because “right now it’s open to discrimination and I think we need to get rid of it.”
But Bizon says that’s overkill.
“Elliott-Larsen I see as being a real big gun going after a very very small target,” he says.
“If you take a look at GLBT issues, in most corporations they already have significant policy in place saying that we aren’t going to tolerate this, that they already have protections.”
The candidates also differ – mildly – on whether same-sex marriage should be legal. Voters banned it in a statewide referendum ten years ago. Earlier this year a court found that ban unconstitutional. But that ruling has been stayed by a higher court while it reviews the case. Bizon says he’ll defer to the voters.
“If they want to revisit that issue I would be perfectly happy with that answer,” he says.
“I would be open to discussion at the very least,” he adds. “ I’m a huge fan of traditional marriage, of course. But times are changing.”
Asked if he thinks same-sex marriage should stay illegal, Kale says he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. As to whether a ban on same-sex marriage amounts to discrimination, he says, “I could see a civil union for that.”
Finally, there’s marijuana. Kale says he respects voters’ decision to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan. But he thinks even medical marijuana does more harm than good.
“If there’s something that comes through that we find that there’s a crack in what was on the original ballot, maybe something needs to be tweaked, I’d certainly be open to looking at that,” he says.
Kale says he might support decriminalizing marijuana, where people caught using it might get a fine – but they wouldn’t go to jail.
Bizon says as a doctor he’d rather not see anyone smoke anything. And he says he’s concerned that if marijuana were made legal, it could get out of control. But he says he’s open to discussion.
“If society wants to go in the realm of legalizing marijuana I think that there are some good things that could be seen there – increases in taxes, regulation maybe, decreases in crime, decreases in trafficking of controlled substances,” he says.
Kale and Bizon recently told the Battle Creek Enquirer that they oppose the Common Core educational standards and support the charter school model.