Democrat Chris Kolb was re-elected to represent Ann Arbor for a
third term in the state Legislature yesterday, surpassing
Republican opponent Erik Sheagren with a majority of the vote.

“It’s always very rewarding to be re-elected in Ann
Arbor,” Kolb said last night at a gathering of the local
Democratic Party at Ann Arbor’s Cavern Club on 210 S. First
St.

The final vote totals were not available last night, although
officials said Kolb claimed about three-fourths of the ballots.

This will be Kolb’s final term serving the 53rd district,
which encompasses Ann Arbor.

Given the largely Democratic constituency of his district,
Kolb’s victory did not come as a surprise to many. In
August’s primaries, he won 78 percent of the vote against
Sheagren. In fact, Sheagren said he ran against Kolb primarily to
give voters a choice on Election Day, and he did not have high
expectations of winning.

Kolb said he plans to make the state budget, higher education
and the environment the focus of his two-year tenure.

“I think we really have to concentrate on trying to
jumpstart Michigan’s economy,” he said.
“It’s been impacting our ability to make adjustments in
education, health care, higher education, life sciences –
sectors of our economy that we have not been able to make the
investments we need.”

For the past two years, Kolb has worked on the House
Appropriations Committee to prepare the state budget. He voted for
a proposal drawn up by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to cap tuition costs
last winter.

Kolb has also said he would like to see the number of college
graduates in Michigan double in the next 10 years.
“That’s part of the governor’s plan to make sure
we have the workforce Michigan’s going to need,” he
said.

He also said he would like to work on creating a transit system
from Ann Arbor to Detroit by rail or bus to give students an easier
way of getting to and from the airport.

Since taking office four years ago, Kolb has strongly supported
environmental policies such as the Ann Arbor Greenbelt program to
protect the city’s parks and other green spaces from urban
sprawl. He sponsored the Water Legacy Act, a package of bills
outlining ways in which the Great Lakes can be safeguarded from
water diversion.

Kolb said he plans to keep working on a long list of
environmental issues. “We’re going to continue to push
to protect the Great Lakes, basically our greatest resource in the
state of Michigan.”

He added that the removal of mercury and other toxic chemicals
was of high importance to him. He also said he would like to
increase the use of renewable energy in Michigan.

Kolb said he is concerned that Proposals 1 and 2 passed
yesterday, both of which he opposed.

Proposal 1 will add an amendment to the state constitution to
require voter approval for any new form of legalized gambling in
the state, excluding projects started within casinos operated by
Native American tribes and those currently functioning in Detroit.
Proposal 2 makes gay marriage and civil unions unconstitutional in
the state.

“Proposal 1 will have a negative impact on the Michigan
lottery to provide needed funds for our education system,” he
said.

Kolb, Michigan’s first openly gay legislator, said the
passage of Proposal 2 will hurt same-sex families in Michigan.
“It sends a bad message about Michigan to our country,”
he added.

He said he believes the issue of gay marriage will resurface in
courts, especially because of the proposal’s vague wording.
He said he also expects its supporters to try to use the proposal
to prevent the legal recognition of domestic partnerships and the
benefits provided for them.

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