In preparation for the 2022 midterm election on Nov. 8, The Michigan Daily sat down with candidates in the State Senate race for Michigan’s district 18 to discuss their background, experience and goals for office. Republican candidate Scott Price did not respond in time for publication.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jeff Irwin

TMD: What are you running for, and where are you from?

Irwin: My name is Jeff Irwin, I am currently the state senator for the 18th district. I am running for reelection in the 15th district. I am originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, but I’ve lived in Washtenaw County since I moved to Ann Arbor to come to the University of Michigan in ‘95.

TMD: Why are you interested in running for this position?

Irwin: I had the opportunity to get involved in public service at a young age, and one of the things I learned through that great opportunity was that there is a tremendous amount of good that you can do. There are a lot of different ways that you can help people, and there are ways that you can affect the world around you and improve the world. The opportunity to improve our community to help people and to be involved in important changes that make life better for people, that’s super exciting and that’s why I run.

TMD: How have your previous experiences prepared you for this position?

Irwin: I suppose serving in local government was particularly valuable because I got to learn about how human services are provided at the local level and look at how state funding affects our county and our cities and our townships — that was all very valuable information to serving in the state legislature. I also spent several years working with the League of Conservation Voters, advocating for better policy to protect clean water, protect the Great Lakes and protect air quality. And that was also valuable experience to come into the legislature because it just gave me a certain level of expertise, knowledge about the details around important issues like how do we make our energy? How do we manage our efficient wildlife and our vast inventory of public land here in the state of Michigan, which is an important and really positive thing for our state?

TMD: Tell me about your platform. What are the most important points?

Irwin: At the broadest level, I want to make sure we’ve got great schools in every ZIP code and that young people who are coming into the workforce have an opportunity to go to take higher education or training, even if they don’t come from rich families. And so making college more affordable and making K-12 schools better are top priorities for me. Also, protecting clean air and clean water in the Great Lakes. And you know, another issue that’s a mainstay of the work in my office is standing up for equal protection under the law and trying to fight for equity and respect for all people no matter where they’re from or what they look like or who they love.

TMD: Is there anything you want to say to college students?

Irwin: One of the things I’ve been advocating for ever since I was in the state House of Representatives is for Michigan to dramatically improve our system of need-based college scholarships. We’ve got a lot of young people who want to go to great institutions like the University of Michigan and it gets very expensive. Making college more affordable is key, and what we did in this year’s budget that I’m really excited about — you can go back and look at my Facebook and Twitter and TikTok and all that and see what I said about it in real time. But you know, what I’m really excited about is we passed a budget that includes a substantial new scholarship for folks who are going to be incoming freshmen next cycle. It provides substantial support for folks who are going to a 4-year institution like U of M, or if they’re going to a community college, or if they’re gonna go and pursue some sort of trade certification. So that’s something that I think is really exciting because we’ve been fighting for it for years and finally in this year’s budget we were able to get that in there, and so in a couple years that’s going to start to benefit folks who are going to be able to attend institutions like U of M.

TMD: Why should students vote for you?

Irwin: I think that if students believe that Michigan should invest in a future that is a part of the solution to climate change, if voters believe that protecting our environment and making sure that we generate our energy in more sustainable ways is important, then they should vote for someone like me who was strongly aligned with that viewpoint. If folks believe that helping others who are struggling is … important and that our community is strong enough to be able to come together and lift up people who are in poverty or struggling with mental illness, then they should vote for me, because that’s what I believe. There is a real battle going on right now in our country between people who want to diminish what we can do together as a community and people who think that we can do great things together as a community. And that’s one of the most, I think, fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans these days, is that Republicans are always saying that ‘Government doesn’t work, elect me, and I’ll prove it’ and Democrats like myself are saying, ‘No, we’ll be a stronger community if we work together on things like education and health care and infrastructure.’ That’s how we build a strong, prosperous and happy community.

Daily News Reporter Brooke Halak can be reached at bhalak@umich.edu.