Patrick’s preferred guide to Local and State candidates

Patrick Periard, Opinion Editor

It is undeniable that your news feed is covered in the latest and most surprising in the 2020 presidential election. However, what you may not realize is the importance of elections at the local and state level. Local and statewide elections are the ones that are the most closely tied to us as constituents and our community. Thus, it is of the utmost importance that as constituents and voters, we are informed about the candidates and their respective platforms. That said, when all things are said and done, the only rational choices become evident. However, I strongly encourage every individual, especially if they will be voting this Nov., to do their independent research on the candidates.

The first of which, Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten, is running for the MI-03 United States House of Representatives seat recently vacated by Justin Amash. Scholten, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaper editor, had a childhood that taught her humility and pride in what she does. Whereas, according to the Detroit News, her opponent, Peter Meijer, grew up in a family with a combined net worth of $10.7 billion. For Scholten, no issue is more critical than the equality of her constituents. As Scholten describes on her website: whether it be facing rising healthcare costs, Michigan’s coronavirus-devastated economy, the biased criminal justice system, or the threat of loss of civil liberties, she is prepared to fight for each person to be treated equally and have “access these same guarantees. And [she] won’t stop until we do.”

On a statewide level, incumbent US Senator Gary Peters is running for reelection. He prides himself on his dedication to bridging the partisan divide. He does not solely hold this as a core principle to his lawmaking, but he acts upon it. Per his website, “in the current 116th Congress, Gary has passed nine bills out of the Senate as of August 2020 – more than any Senator in the chamber. That’s despite Gary serving in the minority.” While it is evident that Sen. Peters has the skill set to compromise, he also knows for what and when he will stand his ground. However, his opponent, Republican candidate John James, has received backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike for his avoidance of condemning President Trump’s praise of the Confederate flag and white supremacists. It is critical to have Senators that are willing to collaborate, especially in this hyperpartisan climate. Therefore, it is only logical to vote for Sen. Peters who is awarded for his bipartisanship over James, someone so afraid of losing his supporters that he will not denounce the President’s racist actions.

Lastly, an election equally as important, but has less media coverage: the race for Michigan Supreme Court. Assuredly, like many of you, I did not realize until recently that this was an elected position. Unlike the United States Supreme Court which is an appointment for life, the Michigan Supreme Court is an elected position for six-year terms. However, the court is non-partisan, meaning the names on the ballot will not be classified as either Republican or Democrat. Despite this, it is important to elect justices that will fight for equal access to justice and impartiality. There are two positions to fill this cycle and the individuals to fill those seats are unmistakable. The first of which, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, has extensive experience in this role as she has been on the court since 2012 and was chosen by her fellow justices to serve as Chief Justice. This demonstrates her inexplicable ability to lead the court in an effective manner and for which she has been recognized as making Michigan’s judicial system one of the nation’s top. 

The best candidate to fill the other available seat is an East Grand Rapids native, Elizabeth Welch. Her impact on this community is unmistakable. A former member and Vice-President of the EGRPS Board of Education and PTO member, we have benefitted immensely from her experience and selflessness. Furthermore, with over 80 endorsements from current elected officials: namely United States Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, her credibility and qualifications are undeniable. Her past experience as an attorney fighting for the individuals assures that when elected to the Michigan Supreme Court she will uphold her commitment to equality and equal access to education and justice. 

For too long we have just voted for the candidate with the most clickable headlines, the funniest commercials, or the best-looking yard signs. Ultimately, it is up to us as voters to educate ourselves to choose the best candidate for ourselves and our community. Regardless of your political stance, Michigan is one of the most important states in the 2020 election. In the last election, President Trump won Michigan by just over 10,000 votes. If you cannot visualize that amount, it is less than the number of people living in East Grand Rapids. Some of the local elections have even tighter margins. You will hear it reiterated endlessly, but in Michigan, it holds true: Your. Vote. Matters. Make it an educated one.