By Katie Burke, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 9, 2012
State Rep. Mark Ouimet (R–Scio Twp.) is fighting to keep his seat in the Michigan House of Representatives.
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Ouimet, who represents the 52nd district which encompasses western Washtenaw County, is running for re-election against Democratic candidate Gretchen Driskell, the mayor of Saline.
Driskell is challenging the incumbent, who was elected in 2010 as Republicans swept into office statewide.
Driskell, who has held office for 14 years, said if she is elected, she would like to make the state an attractive place to live for people of all ages.
“I think if we were investing in the right way we could be getting a lot more people making the choice to live here,” Driskell said.
Driskell said her principal concern is lackluster funding for higher education and its negative impact on the state’s economic growth. She noted that nationally, Michigan ranks in the bottom half in the number of college-educated adults and the amount of higher education funding.
“One of the ways that we build a stronger economy is through the education system,” Driskell said. “As a state we need to invest in our people and our students … cutting funding to make it affordable is the wrong way to go.”
Driskell said Ouimet has failed to represent the ideals of Washtenaw County citizens in issues concerning education, the environment and women’s rights.
Ouimet, however, said his work as a state representative has been dedicated to lowering taxes for small businesses, decreasing unemployment and balancing the state budget.
“People throughout the state of Michigan understand that the state is now headed in the right direction, and they can see it by median income being up, we’ve cut their taxes this coming year and we have people employed,” Ouimet said.
According to Ouimet, Michigan has become Newsweek magazine’s No. 1 state for job growth, is Bloomberg’s second-fastest growing economy and is ranked seventh by the Tax Foundation — a nonpartisan organization that analyzes state tax burdens.
Ouimet said Driskell’s victory would lead to a reversion to the time when Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, served as governor, in which he claimed the state faced numerous difficulties.
“(Driskell) has struggled with wanting to go back to the Granholm years of government where … the budget was not balanced, we had declining population in our state and we had raised taxes,” Ouimet said.
Matt Frendewey, the communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, said he believes Ouimet has a good chance of keeping his House seat.
“We’re confident he will hold on to his seat,” Frendewey said. “He’s done a fantastic job representing this district.”
Frendewey said Ouimet has a deep understanding of the district and has had a positive impact on the state’s financial issues. Frendewey cited Ouimet’s role in reducing the state’s debt and balancing the budget as evidence of his success.
He added that the Republican majority in the House has demonstrated that it values the concerns of Michigan residents when implementing policy.
“When you compare what the Republican leadership has done in the House now, compared with the Democratic leadership two years ago, there’s just absolutely no comparison,” Frendewey said. “The Republican majority has the best interest in mind for middle class families.”
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said Ouimet has appealed to moderate voters in the past, which has helped him maintain his position.
“Mark Ouimet’s success in the past has always been predicated on his ability to get more moderate Republicans and even some Democrats to vote for him,” Irwin said.
Irwin added that Ouimet has campaigned as pro-choice and pro-education, but has voted against both ideals during his time in the House.
“He likes to wear maize and blue and go to football games … but he’s willing to cut U of M (funding) by 15 percent,” Irwin said.