State Representatives Wayne Schmidt and

Greg MacMaster face off

By JACK SPENCER | June 26, 2014

Rep. Schmidt (L); Rep. MacMaster (R)

As a former radio and TV meteorologist in the region, Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, held the edge in name recognition when this year’s 37th District State Senate GOP primary race started.

His opponent, however, Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, has garnered a boatload of endorsements, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Grand Traverse County GOP Executive Board, Michigan Retailers Association, Michigan Restaurant Association, Michigan Doctors PAC, Advance Michigan, and the Great Lakes Education Project.

But Rep. Schmidt insists that does not make him the “establishment” candidate.

“No, I’m the candidate that gets things done,” Rep. Schmidt said. “I believe it is better to work with people to find solutions, as opposed to just tossing things out like my opponent has with his road funding plan, which would raid the Natural Resources Trust Fund. In my first two years as a representative, the Republicans were the minority party in the House. I was one of those who helped us win back the majority.

“The organizations and people in Lansing who support me do so because of the people and businesses in Northern Michigan who support me,” he added. “It starts up here. When you see the support I have in Lansing it’s really the people of this district who are speaking.”

Rep. MacMaster doesn’t see it that way.

“There’s no doubt about it, this race is Lansing versus the people of Northern Michigan,” Rep. MacMaster said. “My opponent is receiving strong support from Lansing because of the way he votes. I feel the support I’m receiving in the district is very positive and solid. I think that’s because people know I’ll represent them — not Lansing.”

The 37th District is comprised of all or parts of Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac counties in the Eastern Upper Peninsula and all or parts of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet and Grand Traverse counties in the Lower Peninsula. The Senate seat is currently held by Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, who chose not to run for re-election.

Rep MacMaster was the only House member who switched his vote on Medicaid expansion last summer. He voted “yes” in June, the first time the measure was before the House, but “no” when a second vote was taken after Labor Day. Rep Schmidt voted “yes” on Medicaid expansion both times.

Michigan Capitol Confidential posed two questions to the candidates aimed at bringing out what kind of senator each would be if elected.

Q: Both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt began their legislative careers by bucking the leaders of their own caucuses. In recent years, Republican lawmakers in Michigan have virtually ceased attempting to use procedural maneuvers. For instance, offering amendments and trying to force votes to be taken on them to promote alternatives that might be preferred by a majority of their colleagues.

Presuming you win the election, would you occasionally go beyond simply voting “no” and publicly attempt to stop passage of legislation you strongly oppose?

Rep. Schmidt:

Yes and I have done that when the needs of Northern Michigan were at stake.  When it came to the Detroit pension settlement I spoke out against it early on.  So my answer to this question is “yes”, but I think it is something that has to be used sparingly and I think it tends to happen most often on a geographical basis.

But my history has been to work with people in the Capitol on policies that are good, not only for those in my constituency, but for those across the state.  I’m about solving problems.  You can’t usually get all that you want, but getting three-quarters of a sandwich is better than getting no sandwich at all, because it allows you to survive.

Rep. MacMaster:

Yes, and I’ve done that. You really can’t do it procedurally because the administration won’t allow it. But I spoke out against the Medicaid expansion the second time around, and on the gas tax issue I offered an alternative to it, which would include repealing the [state’s] prevailing wage law. On the Detroit bailout I didn’t just vote against it, I spoke out loudly and clearly against doing it.

Q: The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), which is known as the state’s corporate welfare arm, gets about $300 million in annual funding while having the reputation of lacking transparency. Even legislators have complained about not receiving information they’ve requested from the MEDC.

As a lawmaker would you seek information from the MEDC to test its transparency? If you thought the results were unsatisfactory, would you say so publicly? What other actions, if any, would you take?

Rep. MacMaster:

My answer is yes. Not only would I do that in the future but I have spoken out publicly about the lack of transparency at MEDC. In fact, I was quoted in a CapCon story not long ago talking about the need for more transparency from MEDC and against the high salaries at MEDC.

Rep. Schmidt:

When I was chair of the [House] Commerce Committee we worked to reform the MEDC. So I understand the problems and frustrations. We streamlined it a lot so it would be clean and more transparent. Yes, there are still problems as people adjust to the changes. But I think we’ve made great strides and you’ll see the improvement as time goes on.

It would be easy to just throw up our hands and say we’re not going to do this (have agencies like MEDC) anymore. But I’m not in favor of doing that as long as we have to compete for jobs with other states that do such as North Carolina, Texas and Ohio.

Editor’s note: Michigan Capitol Confidential will be reporting and writing about key primary races leading up to the election on Aug. 5. The series of stories are designed to provide readers with some insight into candidates who have said they support free market issues. The stories are not endorsements and readers are encouraged to give every candidate a serious look before the election.