Andrew Trzaska | September 18, 2012
With under two months until election day, the Greater Muskegon Jaycees’ Meet the Candidates event on Tuesday received marginal public attendance but a wide-ranging panel of candidates.
Twelve candidates attended the evening event, encompassing hotly contested races for 14th circuit court judge, county clerk, treasurer and sheriff and the 91st Michigan House of Representatives. Single candidates for the Muskegon County sheriff’s race and the 2nd U.S. Congressional race were present as well.
Summaries of statements made by candidates present Tuesday night are available below. Contests were listed in no particular order, while incumbent statements are listed last. Party affiliations are noted except in nonpartisan contests.
14th Circuit Court Judge
Cites trial experience in five counties working under 10 different circuit court judges as well as criminal, civil, family and probate law. Stated that Muskegon County prosecutor’s office has overcharged previously as a tactic to get plea bargains.
Cited first-hand experience with drug courts: “Muskegon county would benefit from a drug court as well as a veterans court as well a mental health court.”
Cites fairness and impartiality as the best qualities of a judge. Has support of friends and Community involvement includes: foster care, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Exchange Club, 4H, Muskegon Heights food pantry. Would continue community involvement if elected.
Cited long time experience in Muskegon including over 80 felony trial wins. Does not see prosecutor’s office as guilty of overcharging, stating as an assistant prosecutor he never charged beyond what evidence demonstrated to him.
On drug courts: “I do not believe it’s designed to help the not for profits. This is a real issue. 78% of all incarcerated people have a drug or alcohol issue, mental illness or a combination of both… “To deny that is to deny the root of many crimes.”
Cited endorsements of current sheriff Dean Roesler, county commissioner Rillastine Wilkins, Muskegon city councilwoman Patrice Johnson, former judicial candidate Michael Walsh and Muskegon vice mayor Larry Spataro.
Best qualities of a judge to him are ability to make tough decisions while still having a tender heart, while also having a “heart of a servant.”
Listed United Way of the Lakeshore volunteer work, Muskegon Exchange Club crime prevention program as points of community involvement. Also listed Knights of Columbus, St. Francis De Sales, and former AMBUCS memberships as part of community involvement. Stated judicial ethics would force him to refrain from serving in certain capacities.
91st Michigan House of Representatives
Collene Lamonte (Democrat)
On Michigan’s driver responsibility fees: “The fee was actually bad legislation. We are double taxing… which places an additional hardship on those who are earning the lowest.” Lamonte claimed there is evidence that it helps reduce accidents and doesn’t go to sheriff departments, just general fund.
Lamonte stated that Lansing was “shortsighted” on the film tax credit reductions, stating that credits given were returned and multiplied by the money brought into the state. Would explore other sources of revenue besides gas tax increases to pay for roads including increasing taxes on heavy trucks she states cause the most damage to roads.
On the recent issue of Michigan representatives Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown being cited for using the word “vagina” on the house floor, Lamonte called for House Speaker Jase Bolger to step down, pointing out irony that he cited the two representative weeks before he was investigated for “rigging an election”, referencing the Roy Schmidt controversy in Grand Rapids.
Lamonte cited endorsements from Michigan Professional Firefighters, the MEA, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, County Road Association of Michigan and the Michigan Retailers Association.
Nick Sundquist (Libertarian)
On driver responsibility fees: “I don’t think you should be punished [for driving] until you actually hurt somebody.” He would be willing to leave gas taxes in place if the government’s influence was reduced in other areas.
On Michigan’s film incentive reductions, Sundquist stated that the government should not pick winners and losers, and charged residents would pay more taxes to subsidize filmmakers.
On the Byrum/Brown topic, Sundquist stated that all representatives should have a set, equal amount of time to speak, and Brown’s comments were “not pertinent.”
Sundquist did not list endorsements, but stated that he had “no trade group or union… looking to get favors for themselves” supporting his campaign.
Holly Hughes (Republican) (Incumbent)
On the issue of Michigan’s driver responsibility fees, Hughes said it should be eliminated. Regarding Michigan’s high gas taxes, Hughes would not state whether she would raise or lower taxes, instead stating that she is being pressured from county road commissions to raise taxes to pay for roads.
On the capping of film tax credits recently passed by the State of Michigan, Hughes claimed the previous incentives affected the budget negatively and needed to be cut. On the Brown/Byrum topic: “As far as I’m concerned, let them say what they want to say.”
Hughes cited high ratings from the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce as an endorsement.
Muskegon County Clerk
Cindy Fairfield (Republican)
Fairfield stated she decided to run because she was “disturbed” by issues of transparency in the clerk’s office. She charge that the removal of public computers for record access, closure during key business hours and the decreased distribution of marriage and other license information to the Muskegon Chronicle when she was editor as examples of this.
Fairfield claims her time as the first female editor of the Chronicle proves she has knowledge of technology, can cut budgets and manage a large staff. The current proposed 2013 county budget “excites” her, saying it “cuts down silos” to get departments to work together. She sees ability to motivate staff and build teams as important traits of a county clerk.
Like Kostrzewa, Fairfield noted that professional ethics of her field limited some of what she could do in the community. She did cite membership in the Alzheimer’s Association the Lions Club and presence on the 1 in 21 steering committee as community credentials.
Nancy Waters (Democrat) (Incumbent)
Waters cited her four years as county clerk as a primary credential for re-election. Cited her decision to stay open on lunch hours and on the occasional Saturday as successes of her time in office. Claimed shortcomings on electronic record access were due to a lag in the county investing in information technology. Claimed her ability to work with lots of people from unions to judges to county commissioners is a big asset to the job.
Cites roles/memberships in NAACP, Muskegon Cooperating Churches and the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission as community involvement credentials.
Muskegon County Treasurer
Eric Rothoff (Republican)
Rothoff stated the best traits of a good county treasurer are transparency and honesty. Cites experience working oversees in the former Soviet Union as the basis for his understanding of free market economics.
If elected, he stated he would do many things to reform the land bank, including but not limited to ending the bundling of land bank properties and stopping properties from being pulled from the market before auction. He charges that Muskegon County cities and townships were charged $1.4 million in the past year because not enough money was made in land bank sales.
Stating he has not gone out for endorsements, Rothoff said he speaks for fiscal conservatives, and plugged his chairmanship of the Muskegon Tea Party and presence on the Citizens Review Committee on the county jail as public involvement credentials. He also stated he is a member of the Muskegon Republican party and created a non-profit to counter waste and fraud.
Tony Moulatsiotis (Democrat) (Incumbent)
Moulatsiotis portrayed his 8 years of county treasurer experience as his main credential for the job. Claimed his primary responsibility is obeying the law and answering to voters, saying “IF you don’t understand how the system works, you can’t implement anything”, as well as “I am running on my record and I want my record to speak for itself”.
Countering Rothoff’s charges, Moulatsiotis stated that in the recent economic downturn, “the County did not lose a single dime” because of his works.
Local business ownership as well as his involvement in youth soccer were his primary community credential notes. Listing endorsements from DJ Hilson and multiple county commissioners and unions, Moulatsiotis also claimed his record was proof of why he should be re-elected.
Dean Roesler (Democrat)
Roesler stressed the need to push forward on new jail plans: “We have to plauy catch-up because we’re far behind.” Highly supportive of prosecutorial candidate DJ Hilson’s youth crime and truancy initiative plans. Cited support of the UAW labor council, Muskegon Heights Police Department’s labor units, former sheriff Bob Carter and several firefighter groups as endorsements. Listed Don Rea VFW, Old Newsies, Great Start collaborative steering committee membership and past work as a Reeths-Puffer band parent involvement as community credentials.
United States 2nd Congressional District
Mary Buzuma (Libertarian Party)
Raised in Grand Haven, MI. 26 years in Navy as naval intelligence specialist. Libertarian influence comes from young age, and believes government is used to “make people live how we think they should live.” Wants to change the system that is “too big, too intrusive and too expensive”. If elected, first order of business would be to let budget sequestration happen (defense, other spending); cited that budget “slashing” would only reduce spending levels down to those of 2006.