The key difference between the two men running for the
state’s 53rd district, which includes Ann Arbor, is a
controversial topic in American politics today.

Incumbent Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) and Republican newcomer Eric
Sheagren differ in their view of Proposal 2 to amend the
state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Kolb, Michigan’s first openly gay legislator, opposes the
proposal and said it would cut benefits received by homosexual
partners in a civil union.

Sheagren, however, said he would like to work to preserve the
definition of marriage that currently stands in Michigan’s
Defense of Marriage Act.

Voters will decide the issue on Tuesday. For the last four
years, Kolb has been elected twice by a largely Democratic
constituency as Ann Arbor’s representative in the state
House, and he received 78 percent of the vote in the August
primaries against Sheagren.

Because a large part of his constituency is made of University
students, faculty and staff, Kolb has taken on a number of issues
to address concerns that the campus community may have.

Among these is the budget crisis the University has faced in the
last year and is expected to continue to face next year. As a
member of the House Appropriations Committee that makes budget
decisions, Kolb voted for a proposal sponsored by Gov. Jennifer
Granholm to reduce tuition costs.

The proposal, which encourages public universities to cap
tuition increases at the rate of inflation in exchange for
receiving back some of the money cut from their budgets in 2003,
was implemented by the University this year as tuition rates
increased just 2.4 percent. The University expects to receive $20
million from the state this year under the plan.

Kolb, however, expressed concern over how much money is
allocated to higher education.

“The state’s corrections budget is now surpassing
our higher education budget by a little bit. That’s a
statement on where the priorities have been,” Kolb said of
the Republican-controlled House’s funding decisions.

Sheagren received 22 percent of the vote in the August
primaries. Sheagren said he also supports Granholm’s proposal
on tuition caps and added that universities should not continue
raising tuition costs.

“I wonder how I’m gong to send my own kid to
college,” said the 25-year-old landscaper.

Sheagren added that he would do more to improve scholarships and
grants at the University.

Kolb supports a mass transit system from Ann Arbor to Detroit,
particularly for out-of-state students who have trouble finding
transportation to Detroit Metro Airport.

Kolb has also been involved in sponsoring environmental
legislation, and along with Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor),
introduced bills for the Water Legacy Act, which would tighten the
restrictions on using surface and ground water in Michigan.

Sheagren said one of his goals would be to empower citizens to
make their own decisions and stop depending on Lansing to run their
lives but he did not offer more specific plans.

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