By Sue Moore
Despite the importance of Michigan’s party primary elections, only about 20 percent of the population turns out to vote, according to Kalamazoo County Clerk Tim Snow. “That’s a sad statistic because so many of our elected officials are decided in the primaries, at least in Kalamazoo County.”
One reason may be that it’s so early in the two-year election cycle that voters are not paying attention to the contested races, Snow theorized. And a voter can only mark the Republican or Democratic ballot. Crossing over from voting in a race in one party primary to vote in a race in another is prohibited. It becomes more of a party-line exercise in democracy.
The South County News is running its primary election information in the July issue in hopes of giving voters time to study the candidates and make plans to vote on August 7. Although there are contests for governor and senator on the ballot, the newspaper is focusing on the local candidates whose positions have direct impact upon the people of South County. That includes races for the Republican nomination in the 63rd state representative district covering the east side of Kalamazoo county and west side of Calhoun county. The Democratic nomination in the 61st state representative contest covers the west side of Kalamazoo county.
There is also a contested Democratic primary race in the 6th Congressional district for Congress to oppose Republican incumbent Fred Upton, who has held the office for over 20 years.
Each candidate for a contested office, with the exception of governor, was given the opportunity to send in a 200-word biography and a photo.
Alberta Griffin – Democratic Candidate for 61st District State Representative
The seeds of honest dialogue and hard work often yield a harvest of success in family, friendships and community. Alberta Griffin believes that these seeds can also be planted in politics to yield an even greater harvest of success in government. A mother of three school-aged children, founder and president of her own company, AGS Data LLC, a professor and Thurgood Marshall Doctoral Fellow at WMU, Alberta is no stranger to hard work, persistence and achieving impact driven success. A longtime resident of Kalamazoo, she has devoted herself to improving the health and well-being of those in this community for over 20 years. Early in her career, “Berta” served as Head Start Nutritionist and WIC Program Coordinator. Her love for seeing data-driven results lead her to serve as an epidemiologist as well. Berta’s work intersects systems of health, education and economic development. This has made her a strong advocate for polices that led to equality in education funding, equitable access to healthcare and providing an opportunity for families to advance their social and economic welfare.
We need an accountable, knowledgeable, and honest leader in the 61st. It is time for a change, and Alberta Griffin is here to drive success!
Corey Kendal – Democratic Candidate for 61st District State Representative
Corey Kendal works with the youth of Mattawan Schools, where he helps shape the future of generations while enjoying the teaching aspect of it. He grew up in small town Vicksburg and now resides in Kalamazoo, staying close to home to try and impact more on the community he has grown to love. Being the oldest of four kids, he took on a leadership role fast. Now at the age of 23, he has been entertained by both KVCC and Western Michigan University working hard for a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. While diligently balancing his schedule, he is now running for state representative. While having non-traditional views, his hopes are to achieve an inclusive community, and to preserve our natural resources to benefit Michigan as a whole. Having first-hand experiences with the struggles of an everyday Michigander helps him stay level-headed and dedicated to this experience.
Thomas Whitener – Democratic Candidate for 61st District State Representative
Thomas Whitener is a 32-year-old game designer, living in Portage, and is a Democrat running for State Representative in the 61st District, which covers Portage, Schoolcraft, Prairie Ronde, Texas Township, and Oshtemo. He is married to Dr. Margaret (Meg) Beckner Whitener, who works as the microbiologist at Bell’s Brewery. As a 11-year veteran of the video games industry, Thomas has worked to write rules and make them fair for everyone that played. He wants to take that training and critical eye to Lansing, and apply it to the rules of the game we all have to play. Thomas comes from a family of public servants, business leaders, and educators, starting with his grandfather, Basil L. Whitener Sr., a United States House of Representatives member from 1957 to 1968. Thomas is running because, as his grandfather said, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And if there is no one that you want to vote for, run!”
Thomas wants to make sure that Michigan’s children have the best education they possibly can, a beautiful environment to explore, and ability to access to the opportunities that they deserve.
Paul Foust – Republican Candidate for 63rd District State Representative
I am Paul Foust, age 30, candidate for state representative. I hold B.S. and M.A. degrees from Western Michigan University. I have served as Richland Township Trustee since November 2012 and have been a lifelong resident of the Richland/Gull Lake area. With my campaign for state representative, I have two objectives: reforming/downsizing Michigan’s bloated bureaucracy and redoubling efforts to preserve local autonomy in planning/zoning issues. I have been endorsed by several community organizations, including two PACs associated with Right to Work initiatives. I look forward to earning your vote this August. Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.
Matt Hall – Republican Candidate for 63rd District State Representative
My name is Matt Hall, a constitutional law attorney and 34 years old, who lives in Emmett Township. I served as Congressional District Chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, worked for the Michigan Attorney General’s office and in the private sector for a combat vehicle propulsion systems manufacturer, and graduated from Western Michigan University and WMU Cooley Law School. I’m running for state representative to fight for our conservative principles and stand with President Trump and his agenda, which is revitalizing our country. Specifically, I will fight to lower auto insurance rates, strengthen our economy, ban sanctuary cities, cut taxes, implement work requirements for welfare, and defend the right to life and our Second Amendment Rights. The incumbent, David Maturen, is far too liberal for us. David Maturen voted against lowering auto insurance rates, against Constitutional Carry Second Amendment Rights, and against making English our official language, but he voted for taxpayer-funding of abortion and higher taxes. While I was the first Michigan Republican Party official to endorse Donald Trump for president and chaired his campaign locally, David Maturen abandoned Donald Trump in his election against Hillary Clinton. I’m conservative, support President Trump and will fight for you.
David C. Maturen – Republican Candidate for 63rd District State Representative
David C. Maturen, age 70, married to Nancy for 47 years. Three daughters – all attended Vicksburg Schools. Five grandchildren. Current Republican State Representative 63rd House District – 2nd term. Kalamazoo County Commissioner for the South County area (12 years – 3 as Chair). Brady Township Trustee (14 years). Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from WMU. Owner of Maturen & Assoc. – Real Estate Appraisers for 30 years. Over 38 years ago, I put down roots in the Vicksburg area. It has been a great place to live and raise a family. I have used my skills in the world of valuation and property tax to help my neighbors and residents of our great state. My Public Act (PA) 217 of 2015 eliminated paying a state transfer tax when one sold one’s home at a loss, helped farmers avoid a tripling or quadrupling of their property taxes when buying agricultural property, and helped generate more money for children with special needs. I have one more term to serve in the House. I want to continue my record of service to the residents of the cities, towns and farming communities of Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties.
David Benac – Democratic Candidate for Congress 6th District
David Benac, 44 years old, married. I grew up working a family farm in Alpena before completing a history degree at MSU. After finishing my education in Indiana and Missouri, I took a teaching job in Louisiana, then had the opportunity to return to Michigan to teach here. Since my first day teaching I’ve been a union member and for the past five years I’ve been an elected member of my union’s association council. I was a delegate for Senator Sanders to the Platform Committee of the Democratic National Party, a co-founder of the Kalamazoo Earth Day Festival in Bronson Park, and I am vice-chair of the Michigan Democratic Party Environmental Caucus. I am running for Congress because it is time we stopped auctioning off our government and elected working people to represent the working class. I am running to represent you, to work for Medicare for All, union protections, sustainable agriculture, a world class public education for every student, to create jobs through infrastructure development and small business programs, and to end the corporate control of our government.
Rich Eichholz – Democratic Candidate for Congress 6th District
I’m Rich Eichholz, the scientist with 30 years of healthcare business development experience. I’ve helped 150 companies get started and grow. I am also a former public school, union teacher. I’m 70 years old and live in New Buffalo Township with my wife and son. My experience has taught me to respect and work with people of diverse backgrounds and views. In business, that experience helped me to achieve win-win collaborations; in Congress it will help me reach across the aisle to get results. I’m running for U.S. Congress in part to restore the critical role science – and facts – used to play in Washington. As your Congressman, I will focus on creating an infrastructure and education jobs program that will build a 21st-century economy here in southwest Michigan and across the country that works for everyone, protects our planet, and provides universal healthcare. To modernize our infrastructure and grow our economy, we must first renew our commitment to high-quality public education for everyone. Then we must train workers for the good-paying jobs that will rebuild our electric grid, and bring highspeed, broadband internet to every home, manufacturing plant, and farm in the country. Learn more at richeichholz.com.
George Franklin – Democratic Candidate for Congress 6th District
George Franklin, age: 67, Wife – Molly Franklin, daughters – Katy and Christy. I’ve spent my life working to make a difference and improve lives. I moved to Michigan over 30 years ago and have been deeply involved in the community ever since, volunteering and helping to lift families up and give people a fair shot. I’ve spent most of my career working at Kellogg Company and have had my own small business for the last 12 years. During my time in leadership at Kellogg I worked with the union and workers to protect jobs and the local community. I served on the Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University. For 11 years, I worked to help grow the university and expand educational opportunities for people of all ages. President Bill Clinton appointed me to the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I advocated for our agricultural workers, strengthening export opportunities for local farmers. I will be a strong, progressive voice for southwest Michigan. A lifelong Democrat, I am fed up with Republicans in Congress who refuse to stand up to Donald Trump’s dangerous agenda. In Congress, I will fight Republican attempts to limit access to health care for women and weaken Social Security and Medicare.
Matt Longjohn – Democratic Candidate for Congress for the 6th District
Dr. Longjohn is running for Congress to improve the health and quality of life for everyone. A high quality of life depends on having access to affordable health care, a safe and healthy environment, educational opportunities and the resources needed to make ends meet. Matt’s policy priorities and decisions will always be based on the greatest potential to improve the lives of those he aims to serve. He won’t let special interests or Washington politics get in the way of delivering results for hard-working families. Matt understands that a commitment to collaboration, inclusiveness, high ethical standards, and civility when working through difficult issues are all keys to leadership. He also knows first-hand that young people and their families sometimes struggle and may need a hand to get on their feet. His track record as an innovator and problem solver proves he has the skills required to effectively practice this kind of effective leadership on local, regional and national levels. His values reflect the shared community values of this district: prioritizing family and community; treating all people fairly; living up to the promise of a handshake.
John James – Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate
John James, 37 years of age. I have two little boys, John and Hudson, with my loving and patient wife, Elizabeth. I grew up in southeast Michigan and Elizabeth is from west Michigan; she grew up in Ada. We are active members of Brightmoor Christian Church. I am a pro-business, 100-percent pro-life, pro-Second Amendment conservative with demonstrated energetic leadership, clarity of vision and a passion for service. After graduating from West Point, I served overseas as a Ranger-qualified Apache helicopter pilot and led two platoons during Operation Iraqi Freedom where I flew 753.8 combat flight hours. I am very proud to say that I brought all of the men in my command back home to their families. After I came home, I led my family company, growing it from $35 million to $137 million and hired 100 new workers. I support President Donald Trump’s agenda and when I am elected to the Senate, I will represent all Michiganders and help my Commander in Chief unify Washington. I am honored to be the only U.S. Senate candidate to be endorsed by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and the only candidate endorsed by Right to Life.