Voter guides will provide insight on individual elections, explaining the seat and candidates’ views.
Two candidates are vying for a state representative seat in Lansing. The Democratic incumbent, Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor), is running for reelection against Saline resident Leonard Burk (R–Ann Arbor). The 55th assembly district comprises the northern part of the city of Ann Arbor and a portion of the city of Milan as well as the townships of Ann Arbor, Augusta, Pittsfield and York. A term in the Michigan House of Representatives is two years and has a three-term limit.
Since 2011, the Michigan House has been dominated by Republicans. A Republican majority is the typical House make-up: since 1999, only between 2007 and 2010 have Democrats held a majority.
The general election will take place Nov. 4, 2014. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 6.
No information could be found regarding Leonard Burk’s views or campaign. After repeated phone calls to Burk and various Republican party representatives, he could not be reached for comment. No information is available online about his positions.
Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor)
Zemke earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Engineering at Michigan State University. He has worked as an engineer in aerospace, defense and automotive industries.
LGBTQ Rights: Zemke is a strong advocate of the LGBTQ community and supports same-sex marriage. He co-introduced legislation that would amend the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to include protections for LGBTQ individuals. The current act protects individuals on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin and other criteria, but sexuality is not included. While the proposed amendment did not pass, he is currently working on similar legislation to help prevent discrimination of the LGBTQ community.
“If you compare the LGBTQ community to the heterosexual community, you have significantly different rights that are afforded to that community, significantly fewer rights and those rights are civil rights, they are protection from discrimination,” Zemke said. “That is a pretty basic right. You can’t be hired or fired for who you are. We have it for age, we have it for gender, and race, why don’t we have it for sexual orientation?”
Zemke introduced a bill July 2014 to ban conversion therapy in Michigan. Conversion therapy aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation but has been strongly criticized by mental health organizations and has questionable efficiency.
Education: Zemke supports increasing funding for higher education. He is a member of a task force created in 2013 that aims to improve the quality of education in Michigan, which investigates the methods and results of education reform in other states.
He said it is necessary to ensure that college graduates can participate in the state’s consumer economy rather than using their income only to pay off student debt.
“We are prioritizing the wrong things,” Zemke said. “We are prioritizing large expense items that have little economic return. If we prioritize less expensive items that promote kids to get a good education in our K-12 education and in Michigan after they go to one of our public universities than you can make better economic decisions.”
Zemke was appointed to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Board of Trustees January 2014, which aims to increase the number of students in STEM fields. He also sponsored a bill in June that will ease the formation of district libraries.
“Don’t let anybody ever tell you that there’s not money for something, because there is always money,” he said. “It’s just that somebody wants to spend it on something else.”
Right to work: He is against the right to work legislation that passed in 2012, which outlawed the requirement of union membership in jobs that once required it.
“That is essentially creating an uneven playing field,” Zemke said. “You are telling people that it is okay for them not to pay for services from an organization but yet that organization still has to provide the services to you. That is baffling.”
Women’s rights: He is pro-choice and supports equal pay.
“Allowing pay discrimination in Michigan is going against talent attraction and retention,” Zemke said. “By not supporting those policies, basically they are deterring folks from coming here, which makes no sense to me at all.
In May 2013, Zemke supported a package of bills that would promote women’s health. Included in this package were bills promoting prevention, treatment and research of women’s diseases, a requirement that all health facilities offer emergency contraception to rape survivors and additional efforts to improve sexual education in public schools.
Where he wants to invest: Transportation, Medicare, autism and mental health treatment, green industry, urban revitalization, and education.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the 55th assembly district as the 55th congressional district.