Get to know the candidates for state Senate

Tribune Staff • Oct 23, 2018 at 12:00 PM

On Nov. 6, Ottawa County voters will be electing a new state senator to represent the 30th District.

The candidates are Libertarian Mary Buzma, Democrat Jeanette Schipper and Republican Roger Victory.

The seat is open because Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, is term-limited. He has represented Ottawa County in the Michigan Senate since January 2011.

In order to help you get to know the candidates, we’ve provided their answers to a questionnaire that we distributed.

Mary Buzuma

Political party: Libertarian

Office you’re running for: State Senate

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired – U.S Navy

Education: Grand Haven High School, B.A in Political Science from Kalamazoo College. 26 years as an Intelligence Specialist in the U.S. Navy. 

Elected offices held: None

Community Involvement: Tri-Cities Historical Museum, St. Mary’s Church (Spring Lake)

Why are you running for office? To give voters another choice and another voice. As a candidate for senate I will work to inspire conversations about solutions. Many of our problems in Michigan are not just Left/Right, or Conservative/Liberal. 

What do you think are the 2/3 biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now?

If polls are any indication: Roads, Auto Insurance and Water Quality.

How do you plan to address these issues?

Roads. The limited resources available (fuel taxes and vehicle fees) need to go to the roads. Eliminate the Transportation Economic Development Fund. There already is a program for economic development it’s called the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Although, taxpayer money that’s currently being wasted on corporate welfare could also be directed to roads. Eliminate the Comprehensive Transportation Fund. Funding local transit authorities should be paid by local taxpayers who directly benefit from them.

Auto Insurance. Reform No-Fault. As a Libertarian I believe in choice.To bring costs down drivers should be able to choose the amount of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) they feel they need. Most states set a minimum but no one should be forced to purchase unlimited PIP. Insurance rates should not be based on where you live. Those living in low-income, high crime neighborhoods incur the greatest costs. 

Water Quality.  I want to do everything reasonable to ensure that companies operating in our state follow accepted practices to prevent most environmental problems. Raising the limit of liability and mandating appropriate insurance as part of a regulatory regimen will help insure that companies will prevent problems from occurring. If or when an environmental disaster occurs, companies held liable will have the resources (insurance) to make the public whole. If the cleanup is the responsibility of companies long out of business, the environmental funds available within the DEQ or the Natural Resources Trust Fund will be directed to clean up damaged areas.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

In the military you work with people from many different backgrounds, but you learn to work together to get the mission accomplished. Republicans will want to work with me because I’m not a Democrat and Democrats will want to work with me because I’m not a Republican. Also, 26 years in the Intelligence field taught me to think critically. Not every problem requires more taxpayer money being thrown into another government program.

Jeanette Schipper

Political party: Democrat

Age: 41

Occupation: Administration, Western Theological Seminary, Holland

Education: Attended Davenport University, attended MSU, currently enrolled at Western Theological Seminary

Elected offices held: None

Community involvement: Member, Faith Leaders for Justice; Advisory Board member, Lakeshore Clubhouse/Lakeside Clubhouse; Survival Council for Center for Women in Transition; board member, Latino Seminary Scholarship Fund; community park party organizer; community event planning for churches.

Why are you running for office? I believe in democracy and the importance of the voice of the people. I am running to represent a voice of many that have been under-represented for far too long. I desire to bring compassion back into government and invest in people, rather than corporations.

What do you think are the two or three biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now? How do you plan to address these issues?

Living wages and affordable housing: I support a minimum $15 per-hour wage and will vote on legislation to increase the minimum wages in Michigan.

I will work with municipalities to address new construction initiatives that will incentivize new homes being built in the $150,000 to $250,000 range. The purpose will be affordable housing and home ownership. We have people paying for rent when they could be owning a home. We need to work on ways in which we can make home ownership a reality for every family.

Health care/mental health: We must first stabilize the Affordable Care Act, then work toward a “Medicare-for-All” plan that removes profit and reduces health care cost for employers and employees.

I want to address mental health discrimination by streamlining complaints for those seeking mental health treatment. Hold the corporations and institutions accountable to the Federal Parity Law and customer access of services. I will lead Michigan in innovation for mental health with brain illness research and high-quality, equal access treatment centers that provide a holistic approach to mental health recovery.

Public education: We must first stop raiding the K-12 education fund. Stop our tax dollars from going toward for-profit charter schools and private schools. Create equitable funding distribution to school districts. Fund schools with a tiered Michigan tax that is equitable and fair to Michigan residents.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

My opponents have experience in politics, I have experience in people. I have a wealth of life experience that allows me to empathize with those in poverty, those experiencing homelessness, abuse, and those struggling to pay bills each week. I come with the lens of a Latina, a survivor, a mother and an advocate. I sit on boards that matter to people, because I represent the voice of the people. I want to bring that voice into government and put people above profits and bottom lines.

Roger Victory

Political party: Republican

Age: 53

Occupation: Farmer, owner/operator of Victory Farms

Education: Davenport University, B.A. in business management, associate’s degree in logistics

Elected offices held: State representative 88th House District

Community involvement: Advisory Board member, Careerline Tech Center; former president, Ottawa County Farm Bureau; deacon and elder, First Hudsonville Christian Reformed Church.

Why are you running for office? I am running for state Senate to preserve our Ottawa County values. Ottawa County is a special place and I want to make sure we keep working together to improve our quality of life and deliver a brighter future for our community.

What do you think are the two or three biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now? How do you plan to address these issues?

(1) Road and infrastructure funding

I recently worked with the governor and a few fellow representatives to pass the 21st Century Infrastructure Program. This legislation, the first of its kind in the nation, will provide us with a full understanding of the condition of our roads, bridges, waterways and utilities. We will be able to properly budget and plan for comprehensive repairs and ensure that we are using proven best practices to build better and longer-lasting roads, bridges and water systems.

This is important because, while we can all see and feel how bad our roads are, it is much harder to see the condition of our water systems and other underground utilities. We have to look at all of our infrastructure concerns and make sure we are building a better and safer future for our community.

To better support these types of smart investments, I have also secured increased road funding every year I served on the Transportation Budget Committee. I have worked hard to cut government waste and ensure that the funding goes directly into road repair.

(2) Affordable housing

Ottawa County has some of the largest population growth in the state, and as a result the demand for housing in our communities has skyrocketed. While increased property values can be a good thing, we are also dealing with record low unemployment and a decreased labor supply. So the people we need to come here to work are not able to find a place to live. To address this immediate need, I have been working to support and expand regional transit options. When we are able to connect the Grand Haven, Holland and Hudsonville communities to the Grand Rapids and Muskegon area transit systems, we can quickly bring that much-needed skilled labor to our local businesses.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

I am running for state Senate as Farmer Rog, just like our Founding Fathers had intended. A government made up of the citizens, not career politicians and lobbyists, but real people. The real people who live and work here, who respect our community and look out for each other.

This is why I hold my office hours on Saturdays, outside of 9-5, and at some of the busiest restaurants around. I want to talk to the hard-working men and women of Ottawa County to make sure their concerns are heard. We deserve a state senator that is open, honest and accessible. If you are meeting with more lobbyists than you are residents, you are doing the job wrong.

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