Lawmakers take on newcomers for open Oakland County state Senate seats
Suburban Oakland County's open state Senate seats have attracted a mix of veteran lawmakers along with first-time political candidates in the Aug. 7 primary.
Many contested primaries will decide who is elected to the Senate because the district boundaries are drawn to favor one party over another.
In the 12th district, four Republicans are vying to replace term-limited Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion. The area includes Pontiac, Auburn Hills and Bloomfield Township.
Competing are state Rep. Mike McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills, state Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston, along with Vernon Molnar, a retired construction company chief executive, and Terry Whitney, an information technology consultant.
Democrat Rosemary Bayer of Beverly Hills will face the winner of the Republican primary in the fall.
Tedder, a 49-year-old former civics and history teacher, has been endorsed by the Detroit Regional Chamber Political Action Committee. He's said he's proud of the tax policy changes he's pushed in the state House, including simplifying the state income tax dispute process and making it easier for small businesses to apply for personal property exemptions.
Tedder, a married father of three, said he'd advocate similar tax reforms as a state senator.
"We need to create efficiency within government," said Tedder, who is chair of the Tax Policy Committee as well as the vice chair of the Health Policy Committee.
McCready, 57, is a former member of the Bloomfield Hills City Commission and a manufacturer's representative for commercial furniture companies prior his November 2012 election to the state House. He served on the House committee formed to help Detroit through its historic bankruptcy five years ago.
He said his priorities are to bring down Michigan's costly auto insurance rates in part by cracking down on fraud and to repair aging roads, while reining in government spending.
"We need to keep battling to keep our state spending in check and we need to fix the roads," said McCready, a divorced father of two.
Terry Whitney, 42, of Clarkston is running his first political race because he said Tedder and McCready voted to raise taxes. Both lawmakers supported the $1.2 billion road funding package signed into law in 2015 that raised gas taxes and registration fees.
Whitney acknowledges the state has underfunded road repairs and argues the money should come from spending cuts. He'd advocate for a state audit that would bring a "deep-analysis" of spending that could "save billions," he said.
He'd also like to restore local control to school boards and regulate the state's Department of Education to a "check writing organization," along with pushing a repeal of the state's pension tax.
Vernon Molnar, 64, of Auburn Hills said he wants to head to Lansing primarily to find a long-term solution to the state's crumbling roads. His 30 years of experience in heavy construction as CEO of the Molnar Group would help Michigan finally achieve a fix, he said.
"As a lifelong road builder, I know what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong," Molnar said. "I am not part of the system."
Molnar, a divorced father of three, said he's a supporter of President Donald Trump. He ran unsuccessfully against former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers in 2012.
A state representative is competing against three other Democrats for the District 11 state Senate seat to replace term-limited Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Lathrup Village. The area includes Southfield, Farmington Hills, Ferndale and Oak Park.
Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, is running against Southfield attorney Vanessa Moss, Oak Park fashion entrepreneur Crystal Bailey and Farmington Hills filmmaker James C. Turner.
AFSCME Council 25 has endorsed Moss, who was the youngest member to be elected to the Southfield City Council and is serving his second term representing Michigan’s 35th House District.
Moss, 32, said as a state senator, he'd work to increase government transparency, primarily by pushing expansion of the state's Freedom of Information Act laws to the Governor's Office and the Legislature. The bills, which would provide access to records, passed the House in 2017 but have stalled in the Senate.
"I have a sense of urgency to restore accountability to state government," Moss said.
Moss also wants to increase education spending and the minimum wage, and expand family leave time.
Vanessa Moss, 55, calls herself a bridge builder and said she'd bring valuable experience as an attorney representing clients in the juvenile justice system.
"I look at what is going on now in our country on both sides, and we have a whole lot of the same old, same old," she said.
She wants to ensure a living wage to stop the "vicious cycle of poverty" and would advocate for more oversight of charter schools. Vanessa Moss ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence in the 2016 Democratic primary for the 14th House District seat.
Bailey, 35, is running her first political campaign and was motivated to improve education for her 11-year-old daughter and thousands of other Michigan children, in part after seeing Michigan's third-grade reading scores continue to decline. She'd start by increasing teacher's salaries and training.
"It starts with the teachers," Bailey said. "It will make them motivated."
She also wants to bring down "the sky-high" auto insurance rates.
Bailey produces fashion shows around the world for independent fashion designers and offers sewing classes through non-profit at Oak Park High Schools.
This is James C. Turner's first run for political office as well. The 48-year-old married father of three said he wants to serve in Lansing primarily to hold journalists on cable television "accountable for misinformation and for deceiving people deliberately."
"I got tired of complaining ... and watching people holding positions I don't think they are qualified for," Turner said.
He recently released a film documenting the 100th anniversary of Highland Park, which was where Turner grew up.
Republican Boris Tuman of Southfield will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the fall.
Two Republicans are vying to replace state Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, in the 15th District, which includes Novi, Wixom, South Lyon, Walled Lake and Northville.
State Rep. Jim Runestad, 59, of White Lake was first elected to the House in November 2014 and is chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He served three terms as an Oakland County commissioner, and prior to that, ran his own insurance company.
He's most proud of his legislation signed into law last year that strips the pensions of public employees convicted of a felony that relates to a "breach of public trust during their service."
"Now they are going to pay the price," Runestad said.
In the state Senate, he'd like to pursue more protections for those who have lost possessions through civil forfeiture, bring down the cost of auto insurance and make sure more of the state sales tax is spent on road repairs.
His competitor, Mike Saari, 59, of Commerce, said he'd also like to reform the civil forfeiture process so innocent people don't lose their possessions. He said in the state Senate he'd also legalize marijuana use and defend gun rights.
"I am an honest guy and I love my community," Saari said.
But Saari created controversy early this year in a series of Facebook posts. FOX 2 Detroit reported that he called Ingham Count Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who presided over the Larry Nassar sentencing, a "feminazi." He said she was wrong for voicing her personal opinions about Nassar in court.
One post appeared to justify men marrying 12-year-old girls and other comments posted from the account were racist. Saari said he was not advocating child marriage, just describing what was acceptable during Biblical times. He said he didn't write the racist posts and that his account was hacked.
More than 50 of Saari's neighbors filed a complaint against him in Novi District Court last month, arguing his dogs roam free and are dangerous. Saari denies his dogs are a threat and said that he is being harassed by a neighbor.
In 2002, Saari was sentenced to 138 days in jail after pleading guilty to a third drunk driving offense.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Julia Pulver in November.
State Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, who is unopposed in the primary, faces Democrat Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak in the November election.
Republican Katherine Houston of Ortonville faces Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, of Holly in the primary. Democratic candidate Cris Rariden will face off against Jason Waisanen and Renee Watson. All are residents of Grand Blanc.