July 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

For GOP, Oakland Co. official, newcomer square off in Michigan's 38th House District primary

Crawford )

After nearly six years in office, Novi-area Republican state Rep. Hugh Crawford’s run in Michigan’s 38th House District will end, thanks to term limits.

Crawford’s wife, Kathy, is one of two Republicans on the Aug. 5 primary ballot to fill the seat and faces Dan Lauffer of Walled Lake, a former pastor, ex-college professor and political newcomer who is contesting her credentials as a “true conservative.”

The winner in the district that includes Novi, Wixom, South Lyon, Lyon Township, Walled Lake and part of Northville will square off with the survivor of the Democratic primary, a race between Novi residents Jasper Catanzaro and Jason Dorsch.

Kathy Crawford, 72, has carved out her own public service identity. She used to work with the elderly and, during the past seven years, has been an Oakland County commissioner after being a Novi City Council member.

Familiarity with the Crawford name will likely benefit her campaign, but Lauffer is trying to use it against her — specifically, criticizing her husband’s votes in 2013 for expanding Michigan’s Medicaid health care program for the poor under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“It’s depressing that the Republican platform is to try and stop Obamacare, and what does Hugh Crawford do? — he voted for the Medicaid expansion,” Lauffer said.

But Crawford said her husband’s vote in favor of expanding Medicaid simply acknowledged the reality that too many uninsured Michigan residents flood emergency rooms and that expanded coverage would ensure low-income earners get better, less-expensive care. Under the law, the expansion in the first few years is totally funded by the federal government.

Lauffer argues voters can expect a similar approach — a moderate approach — from Kathy Crawford if she is elected.

As an example, Lauffer said he opposes state aid for Detroit unless there are more protections for taxpayers who live outside Michigan’s largest city. The Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder recently approved a nine-bill package that provides oversight of the city as well as $195 million to soften pension cuts and protect Detroit Institute of Arts masterpieces.

“Detroit did this to itself — 60 years of goofing around that got worse and worse until they were bankrupt,” he said.

Kathy Crawford said she supports the “grand bargain” aid and legislation because “we in the suburbs, as well as entire state, are affected by Detroit’s failures and successes. This is particularly evident as we pursue attracting businesses/jobs to our region. It is in our best interest to support and improve their situation.”

But Crawford, who is endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, countered Lauffer’s assertion that she and her husband move in lock step.

“We’ve been married a long time and don’t always agree on everything,” she said.

Crawford said she does not like to engage in negative political campaigning, but noted Lauffer spent most of his life serving as a United Methodist pastor as well as a professor outside Michigan. He has since retired to the Walled Lake area.

“People at least need to be familiar with the community they serve ... so they have a good feeling for what the people they represent feel,” Crawford said. “How can you know what people are thinking and what they’re like unless you’re out there?”

Lauffer said he has served as a precinct committeeman but has not had other official experience. As a pastor working in Worth, Ill., he said he helped settle a police labor dispute, and his church work has given him the ability to reach across the aisle and kick-start Michigan’s economy.

“We need to get people together and figure out how to help people start new businesses so that others will find employment,” he said.

After years spent helping Novi build and expand its first senior center, Crawford said the needs of Michigan’s older residents will continue to be a priority for her. In addition, she said the state needs to continue to support and emphasize its own businesses over those from outside the area.

“We have the ability to bring more money into the economy if we can get people to buy local,” she said. “We need to advocate for local grocery store chains and highlight Michigan products.”

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