On Saturday afternoon, over 200 Michigan residents gathered outside the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville to support State Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R) at his official campaign launch for the 2018 gubernatorial race.
Colbeck graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1987; he received his masters degree from the University in 1988. He graduated from the Life Sciences Department of the International Space University in France and worked on systems for the International Space Station. In 2010, Colbeck entered the Michigan Senate, representing the state’s 7th district. He filed the paperwork to run for governor on May 31.
Over 50 volunteers helped organize and execute the event. Central to their agenda was an effort to get signatures; candidates need 15,000 signatures in order to get their name on the ballot for the 2018 election.
AnneMarie Schieber Dykstra, the communications director for Colbeck’s campaign, noted Colbeck’s pitch is to stick to a set of principles.
“Republicans have a set platform and there’s been a lot of criticism that they’ve strayed from that,” she said. “Once they get into office, they end up serving the interest of the powerful few and that’s not what he’s about.”
Running on a platform of “principled solutions,” Colbeck puts forth guiding principles to solve the problems facing the state. Central to his platform are efforts to build better roads, provide cheaper health plans with better quality care and hold the state government accountable for its use of money.
Additionally, Dykstra said Colbeck wants “government to work for the people.” She said oftentimes politicians who enter office put forth corporate welfare programs to create jobs, such as the Good Jobs For Michigan, which gave big companies an opportunity to capture income taxes from residents.
In his address, Colbeck highlighted his years prior to his work in politics. He said as an engineer, he never discussed politics.
“The first 44 years of my life, (my family and I) were sitting on the sidelines assuming that the people we elected to serve us, in office, were serving our best interest, not their own self-interest,” he said. “While there are some very, very notable exceptions, I’m finding that all too often that that type of service is the exception, not the rule. That’s what we need to turn around in our state … This is time for some principled service.”
Colbeck said he and his wife gradually woke up to the idea that they needed to serve something greater than themselves. Colbeck said after getting more involved in politics and maintaining faith in and with God, he decided to run for office; he said he was the first person elected to the state senate without any previous political experience in over 30 years.
As a senator, Colbeck said he boldly led ideas he agreed with and opposed those he disagreed with. He advocated for right to work in Michigan, allowing everyday workers to choose whether or not they want to participate in a union. Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in 2012.
“It came down to fundamentally understanding what problems we had in our state and what was the best way of going off and solving those problems,” he said. “That’s why we got involved in worker’s choice, some people call it right to work, and that’s a misnomer, all we did is give rank and file the opportunity to go off and choose whether or not they want to be in a union.”
The candidate said the economy has improved tremendously since the right-to-work law passed in Michigan; he even said he knows of people moving to right-to-work states because there are more job opportunities there. He added that there needs to be movement toward filling job positions.
“I’ve got 32,000 job openings within 30 miles of my district right now,” he said. “The issue is not (that there are) not enough jobs, the issue right now is filling those jobs with people that are qualified and people of integrity, that an honest day of pay goes with an honest day of work.”
He was the chairman of the state police and department of military and veteran affairs budgets in his first term. He said when he began at the state police, four of the top ten crime cities in the country were in Michigan.
“At the end of that, because of the way we deployed resources at state police, we’re down to just one,” he said. “Veterans — we weren’t doing so hot on our veteran services in this state, and it’s not because weren’t working hard trying to serve our veterans, but they weren’t focused on the right things. We didn’t have a clarity of vision.”
Colbeck said it is the state’s job to make sure veterans know what benefits are available to them and to make sure the state has fully developed claims submitted to the Veterans Affairs through processing the claim that gets them access to the federal government.
“When we started out only 4 percent of the claims that we submitted to the V.A. were fully developed,” he said. “In other words that kept them out of the paperwork ping-pong back and forth between the V.A. and the state. By the time I was done in my service we had that up over 52 percent and we were ranked number two in the country.”
He also highlighted his work in co-founding the Freedom Center — which assists military families in their travels — and his commitment to improving roadways.
In terms of education, Colbeck said years ago the State Board of Education proposed new standards on social studies; Colbeck said he didn’t feel the new method provided for balanced learning and that he wanted students to be thinkers in schools and not indoctrinated. He worked as part of a bipartisan team to make politically neutral and accurate social studies standards.
As for his platform overall, Colbeck outlined his principles.
“Number one principle is the government works for us, not the other way around,” he said. “Number two, when we put forward solutions, they’re meant to the best interest of all our citizens, it’s not supposed to be a special … handout to a specific community. We have provisions in our constitution that specifically prohibit that, but some of the most prevalent bills that happen in our legislature right now are deliberately targeting specific communities — that’s not right. Last, tax increases should always be the last option, not the first option.”
Dykstra also highlighted Colbeck’s emphasis on health care.
“He is against Medicaid expansion because he really didn’t think it was going to solve problems,” she said. “It was a flawed system, and to expand a flawed system was not a way to solve problems, it was a way to burn money.”
She said Colbeck advocated a pilot program for Direct Primary Care Services, something she said is a more “patient-centered approach.”
“We’ve even had Medicaid expansion people interested in that because they can’t get good primary care,” she said. “This is a way for people to get control over their health care, be able to see doctors, get better access to health care. Those are some of things that he’s advocating, and if it saves money, which it probably will, it’s great, because it allows us to focus on other things.”
She also spoke of his emphasis on the government working within its means financially.
“He was very much against the road tax that came out a couple years ago in different versions, because he didn’t think it was going to fix the roads,” she said. “We’ve done this time and time again — we spend hordes of money on roads and they fail. Before we threw more money at the problem, he wanted to take a more principled approach to fixing the roads for good.”
Colbeck is a defender of free speech on campus and advocated “Choose Life” license plates that would raise money for anti-abortion groups, though the proposal did not pass Gov. Rick Snyder (R). Dykstra noted the bill obtained bipartisan support and the funds wouldn’t have only gone to support organizations and women who have decided to continue with their pregnancies, but veterans, as well.
Maribeth Schmidt — a volunteer event coordinator and leader of the launch event — said she has known the candidate since 2009 when he first entered the political sphere and they have been good friends since.
“For me, the two most important things would be the shrinking of government — raising taxes is going to be the last option in a Colbeck administration — and also the move toward a direct primary health care system,” she said.
Schmidt also said she feels Colbeck’s background in engineering will be beneficial if elected.
“His engineering background allows him to look at legislation and say, ‘How would this actually play out, and how are we going to have this happen in real life?’,” she said. “His engineering capabilities, I believe, help kind of break it down into a way that makes sense … He’s also been on one of the most faithful legislators that I’ve personally known.”
Tom Ford served as a volunteer for the event; he said he liked Colbeck because of his strong conservative principles.
“Our family has been supporting Patrick Colbeck since he started to run for office in the Senate,” he said. “It’s kind of a natural progression to support him in his run for candidate for governor. He’s very conservative, as are we. Everything he’s done as a senator, we’ve supported, and we assume he’s going to keep the same policies going forward.”
Michael Bancroft is a regional coordinator for Colbeck for Governor for Northern Michigan. He drove four hours to attend the launch. Bancroft said he felt one of the reason’s Colbeck was right for the job is his genuine nature.
“What I am interested in and excited in is his integrity,” he said. “This is a man of honesty, this is a man who truly cares and this is a man who has what it takes to really, really do something positive for Michigan. That’s why I’m supporting him — not just whatever his campaign promises are.”