June 24, 2014 at 11:52 pm

8th District candidates make their case in Howell forum

Bishop calls for privatizing VA; McMillin favors vouchers for veterans

Howell – — Republican congressional candidate Mike Bishop on Tuesday voiced support for privatizing the Veterans Administration hospital system “entirely” in light of reports of long wait times for injured soldiers to get medical care.

Bishop, R-Rochester, backed VA privatization during an 8th Congressional District candidate forum with his GOP opponent, state Rep. Tom McMillin.

“I would not have any problem as a legislator considering a bill that would privatize the VA entirely so that we can ensure our veterans have the health care they deserve,” said Bishop, a former state Senate majority leader. “The VA situation, by the way, is just the precursor to what we’re going to get with Obamacare.”

McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said he favors giving veterans vouchers to pay for their medical care with private doctors and hospitals.

“If they’re not happy with the services that they’re getting, they should be able to go into private (health care facilities) and get private services as well,” McMillin said. “Those issues of choice and transparency would certainly help us make sure we are taking care of those who have laid their life on the line.”

The two Republican candidates displayed few differences on hot button issues of taxes, health care and sending American troops into harm’s way while sharing the stage Tuesday night at Howell High School.

Both candidates called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, though Bishop said the law needs to be replaced with a better system of delivering health care.

Bishop and McMillin are seeking the GOP nomination for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, who is leaving Congress to become a syndicated radio host. The 8th District encompasses all of Ingham and Livingston counties, and parts of northern Oakland County.

Their race is one of the more competitive races for an open seat in a district that leans Republican. Both candidates have been vying for conservative voters in the Aug. 5 primary.

They were mostly cordial during the forum, though McMillin took a couple of shots at Bishop’s record on tax issues as Senate majority leader. The format of the forum, sponsored by Livingston County groups and media, did not let them respond to opponent’s comments.

Both said they don’t believe humans are to blame for global climate change.

“I don’t doubt that the climate is changing, but I do not believe that the sole source of climate change is due to man,” Bishop said. “I believe it’s a cycle and that we’ve seen this over the thousands of, the millions of years of the existence of this planet.”

When the moderator asked McMillin if he believes the climate is changing, he dryly replied: “The climate is different today than it was yesterday and it will be different tomorrow than it was today.”

McMillin used the climate change question to move back to his talking points about the power of the federal government.

“I think a lot of this is driven by power in Washington,” he said.

During an earlier session, the four Democrats vying for the chance to take on the winner of the Bishop-McMillin race shared the high school auditorium stage and displayed some differences in their positions on economics and social issues.

The Democratic candidates are Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing, Central Michigan University professor Susan Grettenberger, former state demographer Kenneth Darga and attorney Jeffrey Hank.

The candidates were asked whether creationism — the belief that the universe is the result of a divine act that rejects the scientific theory of human evolution — should be taught in public school science classes.

Schertzing and Grettenberger said no. Darga, an economist who describes himself as a “moderate” Democrat, said yes, citing “free speech.”

Hank, an East Lansing attorney, also voiced support for introducing creationism in public education.

“Not in science classrooms, but it should be discussed in public schools,” he said.

When pressed by the moderator to give a yes or no answer, Hank replied: “In science classrooms? Yes, it should be discussed to the extent that you weigh it against scientific theory.”

The 8th Congressional District candidates will square off again at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Brighton Center for the Performing Arts at the Brighton high school. Bishop and McMillin will answer questions during the first hour and the Democratic forum is scheduled to start at 9 p.m.

clivengood@detroitnews.com
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