Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, and Democratic challenger and emergency room doctor Rob Davidson, of Spring Lake, debated in front of hundreds of people from across West Michigan at Newaygo High School in the first of two debates ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
The debate was presented by the Newaygo Times Indicator and River Country Chamber of Commerce.
Health care, education, gun control, the environment and more — often polarizing topics — were on the agenda for the two candidates. One question mentioned the current political climate. Both candidates had something to say about civility.
“I, for one, am willing to lose this seat without giving up a core value,” Huizenga said. “If you don’t like me because I’m pro-life, that’s OK. If you don’t like me because I’m too Christian, that’s OK. If you don’t like me because whatever purpose you’ve dreamed up, that’s OK. I’m willing to stand up for what I believe.”
Davidson’s response was heard multiple times throughout the debate, as the Michigan Democratic Party recently filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission for accusations of misusing campaign funds by Huizenga.
“(Voters) wonder if these people we’re electing are looking out for us or looking out for someone else,” Davidson said, bringing up the campaign funds. “That has to erode people’s confidence in that individual.”
Huizenga, in his closing statement, called the accusations “deplorable.”
One issue focused on campaign finance reform, asking if there should be a limit on the amount of money candidates can accept from special-interest groups.
Does campaign finance reform need to happen? Yes, said Huizenga. But steps toward more transparency have already happened.
Davidson again accused Huizenga of voting based on who he is funded by.
“I have taken a vow to never take a corporate PAC check,” Davidson said. “You have to examine how that influences the votes.”
Huizenga spoke against Davidson’s “Medicare for All” plan, saying studies have shown it would cost more than $30 trillion.
“I believe that Obamacare was a massive overstep and overreach,” Huizenga said. “I believe we need to make sure that affordable, better health care is actually available.”
On gun control, Davidson said he supports loophole-free background checks on all private sales of guns, and is against bump stocks. He also said officials are “more afraid of getting elected than decreasing violence.”
Huizenga said bump stocks “ought to be banned,” and that he has “no problem” with an unpopular position.
“What I’m concerned about is holding an unconstitutional position,” he said, adding that mental health is an important aspect of the conversation.
On the environment, Davidson said he wants to protect the local economies within the district by placing emphasis on clean air and clean water.
“If we do anything to undermine the economy — if Line 5 blows, Grand Haven is done, Ludington is done, Pentwater is done,” he said.
Huizenga touted his work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and said he has battled both the Obama and Trump administrations for funding.
One more debate will take place before the Nov. 6 election. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Lakeshore Middle School in Grand Haven.