State House candidates debate election issues

BY TREVOR CALERO
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 13, 2008

Candidates from two state legislature districts in southeastern Michigan met last night as part of a series of debates hosted by the Community Television Network and the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, a non-partisan political organization.

Jennifer Kron/Daily

Broadcasted live on CTN’s CitiTV 19 and moderated by the LWV’s Judy Mich, the debates for the 52nd and 53rd District state House of Representatives provided a forum for Democratic, Republican and third party candidates to voice their opinions on issues ranging from alternative energy to rights for mental health patients in Michigan.

In the debate for the 53rd District race, State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), campaigning for her second term in office, debated against University alum Matt Erard, who is running with the Socialist and Green Parties. The race also includes Republican candidate Christina Brewton who wasn’t available for the debate.

Throughout the debate, Mich focused her questions on bills passed in Washington and Lansing this past year, and asked the candidates to weigh in on how and why they voted or would have voted.

In response to the bipartisan energy package Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed October 6, which mandated that ten percent of Michigan’s energy come from renewable sources by 2015, Warren said she believed the energy requirement was “a first step,” but thought the standard should have been higher.

“I myself co-sponsored a bill that called for twenty percent of Michigan’s energy to come from clean, green renewable sources by 2015,” she said. “It doesn’t quite go as far as I would like it to, but it’s a first step and it’s an important first step because it sends a signal to Michigan’s energy generators and to companies that work with alternative energy that Michigan is going to require at least (ten percent).”

In response to the same question, Erard said he in part agreed with Warren by supporting the aim of the energy package, but disagreed in the supposed motives behind the bill.

“While the energy initiative that came up with this proposal was primarily concerned with cost considerations, my primary basis for supporting it is that we absolutely cannot reinvest into our fossil fuel based economy,” Erard said.

Among topics dealing with Michigan’s incarceration rates, education and economic growth in the state, the most contentious issue the candidates addressed was the Great Lakes Basin Compact that President Bush signed into law on October 3. The long-debated compact prevents the diversion of the water from the lakes.

Erard, however, said he was “deeply critical” of the compact.

“One of the major problems with it is it opens the door so that NAFTA and WTO provision can modify Michigan’s water to a much greater extent," he said.

Warren said she strongly disagreed with Erard’s opinion on the issue, saying the compact is “one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation we’ve done in Michigan in 4 years.”

“Until the Great Lakes Compact was signed into law by President Bush just two weeks ago, we had no, absolutely no laws in place that prevented anybody from taking large amounts of water, withdrawing it from the great lakes and using it for their own purpose,” Warren said. “Now we have in place a standard that protects Michigan’s Great Lakes from water withdrawals.”

In addition to the 53rd District State House race, CitiTV 19 also broadcasted the 52nd District race between Republican candidate Eric Lielbriedis, Libertarian John Boyle and registered write-in candidate Tom Partridge.

Incumbent Pam Byrnes (D-Chelsea) wasn’t present for the debate. Byrnes has held public office since 2004.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Candidates Jerry Clayton (Democrat) and Dwayne Taylor (Republican), and 15th District Court Judge Candidates Christopher Easthope and Eric Gutenberg debated after both District State House debates.

The series continues tomorrow with debates between Ann Arbor Mayoral Candidates Mayor John Hieftje (Democrat) and LSA Junior Eric Plourde (Libertarian), and City Council Ward 5 Candidates John Floyd (Republican) and Carsten Hohnke (Democrat).