GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Before Michigan gets to a spirited primary in August and the major general election in November, there is a special election that some West Michigan voters will decide.
In what is sort of the political equivalent of musical chairs, the 74th House District seat is vacant. That is because then-Rep. Mark Huizenga ran for the vacant 28th Senate District. That seat was empty because then-Sen. Peter MacGregor left to become Kent County treasurer. When the music stopped, the 74th need a new representative.
That all means that on March 1, the people in northern and western Kent County will be asked to pick from four Republicans to see who will face the lone Democrat in the race, Walker City Commissioner Carol Glanville, in the special general election May 3.
Those four Republicans are Robert Regan, Justin Noordhoek, Steven Gilbert and Brian Bair.
Regan calls himself a “serial entrepreneur,” having owned a number of businesses over the years as well as running previously for the state House. This time, he told News 8, he got in the race to help protect what he sees as parental rights.
“I’m the only candidate right now that has been standing up consistently for the parents. And when you’re starting to call parents domestic terrorists, which is what they’re doing when parents go to the school board, they’ve had enough of that. So I want to be that voice that will fight for the parents in Grandville, in Rockford, in Kenowa Hills. I’m going to be that voice that will fight with and for the parents in Lansing,” he said.
Regan said another issue for him is election integrity. He said he thinks the 2020 election should be looked into “a little bit more.”
Justin Noordhoek is a member of the Grandville City Council and educator who wants to see more flexibility, particularly relating to at-risk students like the ones he teaches. Another priority for him is government transparency.
“As a local official, I’m subject to the Freedom of Information Act request, for example, and unfortunately our governor and state legislators are not,” Noordhoek said. “So I don’t think there should be a special carve-out rule for those who serve in state government. Transparency has to be the top issue because independent rankings of our state have consistently said that we rank near the bottom when it comes to transparency as a state. And if things can be done in secret, if things can be done behind closed doors, then really no other topic matters.”
Steven Gilbert, mayor pro tem for the city of Walker, has worked as a legislative director in the Michigan Legislature. He said he’s concerned about spending in Lansing and with a record number of available dollars, he thinks some of it should go back to taxpayers.
“From my perspective, I think we’re past due to roll back the income tax. It’s been something that’s been talked about for many years. I look back to, I believe, it’s 2008 or 2009, when the promise was made to the people of Michigan that hey, we’re going to get this tax rate back to 3.9%, this is a temporary increase. I think there’s no time quite like right now to take that step,” Gilbert said.
Brian Bair is a project manager for a market research firm. He said he is in the race because of much of what government has done over the last two years that he says doesn’t sit well with him or his neighbors.
“Really, the first thing that kind of reared its ugly head was the idea that one person in Lansing, in one of three letter agencies, could write something on a piece of paper that applied to everyone in the whole state, no matter what,” he said. “I think that was sort of the big concern right from the beginning. And I think that those are things that should have been addressed and need to be addressed.”
Bair said specifically he believes the Emergency Management Act of 1976, used for a basis of some emergency orders during the pandemic, should be repealed by the Legislature, though he concedes the governor would veto such a move.
Bair added he won’t run for the House in the regularly scheduled fall election even if he wins the special election. If the legislative maps drawn by the new independent redistricting commission withstand legal challenges, he will live in the new 89th District, where he expects a member he approves of to run for re-election.
No matter who wins this time around, if they choose to run in the fall, they will have to file before they know the outcome of the special election. According to address checks from their special election filing affidavits, all of four of the remaining candidates (three Republicans and one Democrat), will ultimately end up in the new 84th District. The old 74th will be carved up into pieces of four new House districts.