MARQUETTE - Candidates in several local races squared off Thursday evening on issues related to children and families during a forum at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette.
The forum was sponsored by the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development and the Marquette branch of the American Association of University Women.
It was conducted in two rounds, with one candidate from each race choosing a question from a hat in the first round, and the other candidate choosing in the second.
The panel for Thursday’s forum at Peter White Public Library is shown. Candidates in several different races in November’s election participated. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
A large crowd packed the room to listen to candidates’ answers about issues related to children and families during the forum sponsored by the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development and the Marquette branch of the American Association of University Women. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Both candidates were given two minutes to respond to each question and were also afforded a two-minute introduction and a two-minute summation.
All questions were posed by Paul Olson, youth development associate for the GLCYD.
Topics included discussions on state funding for education, intervention programs for at-risk children and children living in poverty in Michigan, as well as others.
The evening saw a few fireworks, with some disputes between the candidates.
Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who is running for re-election to Michigan's 108th House district, responded to a question on statistics about wage discrimination between men and women by saying that type of behavior was illegal.
"We know in this country right now, we have many statistics that women are more than ever reaching high-powered positions, more than ever are earning more money than they have before," McBroom said. "These statistics (about wage discrimination) are very false and misleading and need to be looked at more carefully before we make blanket statements about wage discrimination, which is illegal."
McBroom's opponent, Sharon Gray, D-Rapid River, offered a quick retort.
"Mr. McBroom, I've been a woman in the work force for a long time and I can tell you that making more than ever does not mean making equal pay," Gray said, adding that she would work to eliminate wage disparities between the sexes.
Every candidate agreed that early childhood education was key for Michigan, and that investments should be made by the state to ensure those types of programs continue to expand.
"Your early education programs, your early start programs, we've seen that the benefit from them is, I've heard as high as 15 to 1," said Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, who is running for the Michigan 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House. "For every dollar that we put into our children, before they even start kindergarten, we'll get that type of a benefit from those precious tax dollars."
Jack Hubbard, R-Grand Marais, said the amount of knowledge kids obtain at a young age plays a big role in the importance of the early education to the rest of their lives.
"The most important thing with kids is to have this early start program," Hubbard said. "What you're teaching that kid between the time it's 3 years old until, let's say, 10 years old - I know this from being a father - they learn an enormous amount goes into their brains and it just locks in there with them."
Many of the candidates spoke about state funding, saying where a state decides to spend its money says a lot about what that state is hoping to accomplish.
"Like every question that's been posed tonight - it takes funding," said John Kivela, D-Marquette, about state mental health programs. "There isn't a magic pot of money, so we need to figure out what our priorities are as a state and our responsibilities as people."
Hubbard and Kivela are running for the seat in Michigan's 109th District.
Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, who is running for the 110th District seat in the state House, spoke during his summation about replenishing education funding.
"When we talk about issues, that we have our figures out there, and that it's not going one way or the other where we're taking $500 per student away and then we're giving them 150 to make it look good," Dianda said. "I'm not into that. I'm not running on that principle."
Also participating in the forum were incumbent Frank Foster, R-Pellston, and Suzanne Shumway, D-Petoskey, who are running for the 107th District House seat.
However, Ellis Beal, the Green Party candidate for Michigan's 1st District in the U.S. House, was not allowed to participate in Thursday's events.
Olson, the event's moderator, said that was because it is Upper Peninsula Children's Coalition policy that any candidate invited to its forums must belong to a party that received at least 5 percent of the vote in the previous general election. Olson said the Green Party did not qualify.
Nonetheless, Beal said he would have liked to have been allowed to participate.
Both Dianda and McDowell sat next to empty chairs, as their opponents - Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, and Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, respectively - did not attend the forum.
According to Raffi Williams, a spokesman for the Benishek campaign, Benishek was attending a previously scheduled Congressional veterans roundtable during the forum.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.