Get to know the candidates running for Congress

Tribune Staff • Oct 27, 2018 at 2:00 PM

On Nov. 6, local voters will be asked to choose a candidate to represent Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, is being challenged by Dr. Rob Davidson, a Democrat from Spring Lake. 

The Tribune asked the two candidates to answer a series of questions. Their responses are listed below. 

Dr. Rob Davidson

Age: 47

Occupation: Emergency physician

Education: M.D., College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, 1998

Elected offices held: Spring Lake School Board, trustee

Community involvement: 

As the father of three kids, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with them in many different areas. I was a coach with Total Trek Quest, an after-school running program for third- through fifth-grade boys from 2012-14. We trained for 10 weeks and completed a 5K at the end of training.

I was a co-founder and leader of Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) at Jeffers Elementary School in Spring Lake from 2014-17. Watch D.O.G.S. is a national program that brings dads into schools to volunteer for an entire day from bus drop-off to pick-up. The program in Spring Lake was wildly successful and has since spread to Holmes Elementary School and schools in Grand Haven.

I served for two years, from 2015-17, on the Spring Lake Schools Foundation Board.

Why are you running for Congress?

As an emergency physician in a small, rural hospital serving a countywide population that includes low-income, underserved populations, I see every night what’s wrong with our nation’s broken health care system: Patients who can’t afford to see a regular doctor to care for a chronic condition until it’s too late; patients with huge out-of-pocket costs that can’t afford critical tests; uninsured patients overdosing on opioids who will need long-term treatment they won’t be able to pay for; patients whose first thought upon recovering from a heart attack is how they’ll pay the bills, instead of how they’ll regain their health; and so many more harrowing stories. I’m running because I believe health care is a basic right and that health care for all is critical to the health, safety and success of our citizens and our nation.

What do you think are the two or three biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now?

1. I’m committed to working with all sides toward health care for all.

2. As a trustee of our local public schools, I care deeply about educational issues, especially building partnerships to strengthen schools so they can serve all students and making college and post-high school education affordable for all families, with the goal of providing opportunity for all Americans to pursue their chosen careers and their fullest potential.

3. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that belong to all of us, and as a member of Congress I will work to ensure it remains clean and healthy. One way we can achieve this is by requiring polluters to pay to clean up when they contaminate our lakes, rivers and drinking water.

How do you plan to address these issues?

1. We can address the wide range of significant health care challenges U.S. families face, from managing chronic illnesses and promoting healthier lifestyles to ensuring families and small businesses don’t face financial hardships because of skyrocketing health care costs, is to work toward health care for all. One model that is currently languishing in Congress, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act (HR 676), is a good starting point to begin the process of ensuring every American has quality, affordable health care.

2. I believe in providing students and their families support before and after the K-12 stage by working toward expanding high-quality early-childhood education for all low- and middle-income families, and providing low-cost, low-interest loans for students to go to college or continue their education, through scholarships for eligible low- and middle-income students.

3. Two of the most significant conservation and public health challenges West Michigan faces are contamination of our Great Lakes and drinking water, and carbon pollution. I support proposals that would make corporate polluters pay to clean up when they contaminate our lakes and drinking water, and I support efforts to reduce carbon pollution, including transitioning to a clean energy future.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponent?

I am a frontline 20-year emergency physician with experience in urban and rural ERs who has seen everything that could possibly walk through a hospital’s doors, from fatal gunshot wounds to a pre-existing condition that was ignored because a family couldn’t afford to see a doctor, to opioid overdoses and patients with untreated mental illnesses. I have delivered babies, I have saved lives and I have suffered the secondary grief of losing patients. I have experienced the joy and satisfaction of helping countless patients recover from strokes and other debilitating illnesses or injuries. I have heard countless patients share painful, heartbreaking stories of struggling with our broken health care system. As a veteran ER doctor, I understand the practice and policy of medicine and health care, which is one of the most significant concerns of Americans today who face skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs and worry whether their pre-existing conditions will be adequately treated.

Bill Huizenga

Age: 49

Occupation: Small-business owner, Huizenga Gravel

Education: B.A., political science

Elected offices held: State representative 90th District (2003-08), U.S. representative (2011 to present)

Community Involvement: Active member of Haven Christian Reformed Church, small-business owner

Why are you running for re-election?

I am running for office to make sure our children have even more opportunity than we had growing up in West Michigan. That means making sure the economy is growing and creating good jobs; working to restore local control of education decisions; and addressing fiscal responsibility over the short, medium and long term so we don’t burden our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt.

What do you think are the two or three biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now?

Growing the economy, protecting the Great Lakes and combating the opioid crisis.

How do you plan to address these issues?

Economy: While the economy has dramatically improved for many Ottawa County families, it remains a critical priority of mine and more work must be done to increase economic opportunity and future growth across Grand Haven, Ottawa County and West Michigan. This means eliminating unnecessary regulatory red tape that makes it more difficult for small businesses across Ottawa County to grow and create jobs. We must also focus on policies that enhance growth and open new opportunities to export products made in West Michigan. I am deeply concerned about the negative impact overly broad tariffs could have on West Michigan’s economy, manufacturers and agricultural community.

Great Lakes: As co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, I have built bipartisan support to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). This program has a proven track record of effectively cleaning up polluted sites, combating the spread of invasive species such as Asian carp, and restoring Great Lakes habitat for fish and wildlife. On the economic side, I have led the charge to restore the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund so our ports (Muskegon) and harbors (Grand Haven) are properly dredged. Our ports and harbors are critical to growing the local economy and play a significant role in exporting more made-in-Michigan products.

Opioids: The opioid crisis is impacting communities across the nation and, unfortunately, West Michigan is no different. Individuals and families in Ottawa County and across Michigan lack access to proper mental health resources and substance abuse treatment and recovery options. This is why I have teamed up with specialists at Pine Rest to help those in need get back on their feet. Currently, outdated Medicare and Medicaid regulations are restricting access to mental health care for individuals who need it the most. Recently, I have supported legislation to enhance treatment, improve recovery and prevent opioids from entering the country. Moving forward, we are going to need coordination between friends, family members and all levels of government to combat this crisis.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponent?

I was born in Zeeland, Michigan, and have spent my whole life here in West Michigan. As a small-business owner and a former Realtor, I know what it takes to make payroll, and understand that it is the private sector that creates jobs. As a policymaker, I have worked to protect the Great Lakes as well as implement real solutions that remove government barriers and increase opportunity for hardworking families in Ottawa County and across West Michigan.

Note: If you’re still undecided about which candidate to vote for, you’re invited to attend a debate between Huizenga and Davidson, hosted by the Grand Haven Tribune, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 7-8:30 p.m. It will take place at Lakeshore Middle School in Grand Haven. Seating is limited to the first 900 people.

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