Republicans battle to replace incumbent state House reps in Oakland County
The suburban environs of Oakland County pack a bunch of highly contested Republican state House races in the Aug. 7 primary because of term limits.
The limiting of House members to three two-year terms has led to openings in GOP-leaning Districts 40, 41, 43 and 44. Hoping to fill those spots are 17 Republicans, while the Democratic primaries feature six candidates overall.
With few of the candidates enjoying high name recognition, the races will likely come down to organization, money and their connections to the local community, political experts said.
Six Republican hopeful are fighting to replace Rep. Michael McCready of Birmingham in a district that covers Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills. The GOP victor will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Nicole Bedi and Mari Manoogian, both of Birmingham.
Roads, roads, roads is the top issue, according to three of the six Republicans.
The trio — Paul Taros, owner of an accounting company; Malissa Bossardet, 51, a veterinary and saleswoman from Bloomfield Hills; and Mike Banerian, 23, vice president of a wine distribution company in Bloomfield Hills — proposed similar solutions.
They said the state law that determines the distribution of road money needs to be changed so more road money would go from rural to urban roads, using better materials in the construction of roads and tightening the weight limits of vehicles on the roads.
“For years we have neglected our roads and bridges, and we are paying the price,” Bossardet said.
“We should update that (road funding) formula to take into account population, density, zoning,” Banerian said.
“We need to set road funding as one of the state’s top priorities so our roads are fully funded before we allocate money to other less important programs,” Taros said.
Paul Secrest, 62, a retired Chrysler purchasing executive from Bloomfield Hills, said Michigan needs to address the high cost of car insurance, which he said is nearly three times higher in Michigan than Ohio.
The solution? Michigan should adopt Ohio’s insurance law, word for word, he said. Current attempts to fix the problem are stymied because every proposed change is fought by interest groups, Secrest said.
“Either you make huge changes or you don’t accomplish anything,” Secrest said.
Joe Zane, 33, an information technology consultant from Birmingham, said the state’s biggest goal should be to become the center of next-generation transportation technology.
It’s imperative to be successful because, like Henry Ford with the automobile, it could transform the economy of Michigan for the next century, he said.
“We can’t be complacent,” he said about autonomous technology. “We have to play like we’re behind until we are so far ahead there is no question of our dominance.”
David Wolkinson, 37, a former administrative vice chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, said the country is being hurt by the breakdown of the nuclear family, decline of religion and a breakdown in what people understand about national and international issues.
In Michigan, he worries frustration with state government will cause residents to vote Democratic in the election and reverse what he called the accomplishments of Gov. Snyder’s tenure.
A Troy city councilman and Oakland County commissioner are among the three Republicans running for the seat held by GOP Rep. Marty Howrylak in a district covering Troy. The winner will face Democrat Padma Kuppa in the fall election.
The councilman, Ethan Baker, 38, said Michigan seems to be content with its middling approach toward solving problems. Instead of chasing the pack, the state should set the pace in tackling challenges ranging from growth, job growth, health care reform and fixing the roads and infrastructure, he said.
“Michigan citizens should never be okay with just being okay,” said Baker, an attorney. “We can and should be the best.”
Doug Tietz, 37, a marketing firm owner who serves on the Oakland County Commission, criticized the state Legislature for continually spending money on interest group projects while refusing to finance road repair.
He proposed that all tax revenue generated by fuel sales, including the state sales tax on gas, should be used to fix the roads.
“Lansing has lost touch,” said Teitz, who has been endorsed by the Detroit Regional Chamber. “They continue to spend and spend and not focus on the problems facing regular people.”
Ronald Dwyer of Troy didn’t respond to requests for an interview.
Two Independence Township trustees and a Waterford Township trustee are vying to replace Rep. Jim Tedder in a district that covers Clarkston and Independence and Waterford townships. The winner will face Democrat Nicole Breadon, who has no primary opponent.
Andrea Schroeder, 54, a business consultant who serves on the Independence Township Board of Trustees, wants to see the state government and business working together more to solve problems. The two entities should strive to expand job training in critical fields like technology, engineering and professional trades, said Schroeder, who has been endorsed by the Michigan and Detroit chambers of commerce.
“Businesses are attracted to places with a strong, educated workforce,” she said. "(They) need to work together to reduce the skills gap."
Tony Bartolotta, 64, a car wash owner who serves on the Waterford Township Board of Trustees, said state taxes and fees should be cut, including the state income tax of 4.25 percent. He said the state already has enough money to fix problems like roads, but has too many regulations, especially for people trying to start a business.
"Government shouldn’t fight people that want to start a new business,” he said.
Jose Aliaga, an Independence Township trustee, didn’t respond to requests for an interview.
One of the more crowded Republican races is in this district that includes Waterford, Milford, White Lake and Highland townships. Five Republicans are vying for the spot being vacated by Rep. Jim Runestad.
The victor will meet the winner of the Democratic primary between Laura Dodd and Steven White Jr., both of Milford, in the fall election.
Matt Marko, 60, who owns a real estate development and management firm, said businesses tell him over and over they can’t find enough people with the desire or talent to fill jobs.
Medicaid and unemployment insurance need to be reformed because they’re creating incentives for people not to work, Marko said. He also wants to help businesses get involved in setting school curricula so they could be geared toward fields that most need workers.
“Investment and jobs seek the path of least resistance,” he said. “Resistance to that path are laws, regulations, lack or manpower and taxes.”
Lynn O’Brien, 57, director of district and veteran affairs for Republican state Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake, said the two biggest issues are crumbling roads and skyrocketing auto insurance.
She said the $1.2 billion road funding law that is being phased in isn’t enough. O'Briend is urging a partnership between public and private entities, including the federal government contracting with the state to do maintenance and repair.
“The dedication of money to fix our roads and bridges just has not been there,” she said.
Matthew Maddock, 52, a private investigator and bail bondsman, agrees with O’Brien that roads and auto insurance are the biggest challenges facing the state. The state should use warranties and better material to ensure roads last longer, said Maddock, who
He also said money in the road funding package shouldn’t be diverted to other projects.
“I’m not going to Lansing to get pushed around by lobbyists and special interest groups,” Maddock said.
Also running in the Republican primary are April Guiles of Milford and Michael Mamut of Highland.