Most Ann Arbor voters will choose between their current state representative, Democrat Chris Kolb, and his Republican challenger, John Milroy, in a match-up Tuesday that Kolb is heavily favored to win.

Residents of the northeast part of the city will decide a more uncertain race. Republican incumbent Gene DeRossett, his district boundaries changed by redistricting, must ward off a strong challenge from Democrat Pam Byrnes before he can return to the state House of Representatives.

Both Democrats have put land use issues at the core of their campaigns and want more funding for the Purchase of Development Rights programs that allow communities to preserve farmland.

DeRossett is running on his record, while political newcomer Milroy said he wants more tax cuts and fiscal discipline.


DeRossett, a Freedom Township resident who owned a construction business, described himself as a public servant – not a politician – who listens to the people he represents.

“When someone calls our office and they have a legitimate constituent need, we address it,” he said.

In his four years in the House, DeRossett said he has worked with lawmakers across the aisle to pass bipartisan reforms. Legislation he sponsored strengthened laws against domestic violence, made housing more affordable and increased the amount parents can save for their child’s education in a state savings plan, he said.

Another bill he tried to pass would repeal a law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. Helmets give an illusion of safety but cause some injuries instead of preventing them, he said.

But Byrnes criticized the helmet bill and said statistics don’t support his claims.

Byrnes, a Lyndon Township resident, attorney and Washtenaw County road commissioner, has focused her campaign on responsible land use and early childhood education.

The state needs to find more funding for pre-kindergarten programs, she said. “I want to re-prioritize what we need to do with education.”

By buying development rights for agricultural land, Byrnes said, the state can slow the spread of industry and its accompanying infrastructure.

DeRossett’s philosophy of preventing urban sprawl relies more on the private sector. He supports rebuilding cities by placing tax-reverted property in private hands and preserving farmland by increasing aid for farmers.


Like Byrnes, Kolb is focused on land preservation and has introduced legislation to address funding problems.

His platform of environmental protection also includes creating a permitting process for withdrawal of ground water and giving incentives for using alternative sources of energy, he said.

Kolb was an environmental consultant and an Ann Arbor city councilman before his election to the Legislature.

He said the costs of research, energy and health care are pressing on public universities and causing rises in tuition.

“The state has got to step up to not only help them cut their costs and be more efficient but also to bring in new funds,” he said.

Kolb’s opponent agreed that the state must aid higher education. “I’d fight hard to get (the University) more money,” Milroy said.

The state should encourage alternate energy by offering tax credits and find non-invasive ways to maintain open spaces, he said.

Milroy said taxes should be lowered across the board, and the state should progress with its planned income tax rollback.

“We need to lower the tax burden to make us more appealing to business growth,” he said.

With experience working for his family’s advertising business, George Milroy and Associates, and as a defense attorney, Milroy said he understands both the difficulties faced by small business and the problems of the judicial system.

He supports reforming drug laws to address unjust sentences and prison overcrowding, he said.

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