Large field of candidates in 71st state House district primaries


With Republican Rick Jones leaving the state House because of term limits, the primary election in the 71st state House district has attracted a field of nine candidates. The district covers most of Eaton County.

As WKAR's Scott Pohl reports, though it's likely the Republicans will hold the seat, Democrats feel they've got a shot at taking it.

Eaton County was Republican country for its entire history until Democrats won a majority on the county commission four years ago. In 2008, they held that majority in an election Eaton County GOP chairman Tim Tarry called the "Barack Obama tsumani."

Tarry says the last two elections have been a wake-up call for the GOP. He says attendance at Eaton County Republican party meetings has skyrocketed.

"It used to be that we had our executive committee of 15, 16 people, and it would be a few people coming in, and we'd have 20 or 25," Tarry says. "Now, we're having 80, 85, 100 people come to the county meeting."

Two years ago, Rick Jones won re-election to the House by 16 percentage points over Mark Eagle, a Democrat who wasn't able to match Jones on name recognition or fundraising.

After initially saying he wouldn't endorse a candidate in the Republican primary, Jones has changed his mind and is backing Cheryl Haddock to succeed him.

That endorsement doesn't worry Eaton County Democratic chairman John Strachan.

"No, it doesn't," Strachan says. "Rick has done a really good job of getting his name and his face out there. He's in the paper all the time. People know who he is. But, he's endorsed candidates every election, and his candidates have not always succeeded."

As an example, Strachan cites the 2006 election. Jones supported Paula Olivarez for District Court Judge, but she lost to Julie Rienke by 9,000 votes. Jones points out that the candidate he endorsed won the last two county-wide sheriff's races.

MELISSA INGELLS: "And, joining me now to talk more about the primary in the 71st state House district is WKAR's Scott Pohl. Good morning, Scott."

SCOTT POHL: "Hi, Melissa."

INGELLS: "There are four republicans and five democrats in the race. What can you tell us about the republicans?"

POHL: "Well, first of all, they all want lower taxes and less regulation. They have that in common.

Cheryl Haddock is executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Eaton County, and she's certainly helped in the primary by being endorsed by representative Rick Jones. She wants to cut wasteful spending, and also talks about making sure that violent criminals and sex offenders aren't put back on the streets.

Laurie Raines is married to the sheriff in Eaton County, Mike Raines. She talks about 15 years of state and local government accounting experience, which she says will be useful in dealing with the state budget. And, she calls herself a conservative Christian.

Deb Shaughnessy is the former mayor of Charlotte, and her work experience includes time at both the House and the Senate as an aide, and she says that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Britt Slocum is the other republican. He owns three sandwich shops. He talks about his record of job creation, and he also serves as vice president of the Waverly Board of Education."

INGELLS: "Okay, and what about the democrats?"

POHL: "Well, Melissa, all the democrats think there have been too many cuts to education in Michigan.

Let's start with Mark Eagle. Eagle lost to Rick Jones in the election two years ago. He's a former member of the Michigan Commission for the Blind. His platform includes diversifying Michigan's economy, and providing more money to local governments.

County commissioner Theresa Abed is a school social worker. She says that the budget deadline should be set firmly for the first of July, and that the pay of the governor and state lawmakers should be docked for every day they go past that deadline every year.

Justin Heany is a social studies teacher at Grand Ledge High School. He wants to expand the sales tax to include services, and he also thinks we should invest more in police, public health, and roads in Michigan.

Fred Fry has a legal background. He founded a real estate office, and has experience on the Charlotte city council and the school board. He says if elected, he'll take a 20% cut from legislative pay.

Bob Robinson's work history is in public relations. He's refusing lobbyist money. He says Eaton County could gain 14,000 jobs in the next ten years with changes to the tax code. And, at a recent candidate forum, he was the only candidate who said he backs holding a new state constitutional convention."

INGELLS: "Well, an interesting slate of candidates, and thank you for taking a look at them for us. WKAR's Scott Pohl, covering the race for the state House 71st district. Thank you."

POHL: "You're welcome."

Election 2010 - WKAR
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