CADILLAC — Two Democrats are running for the U.S. 4th Congressional House seat currently occupied by Republican John Moolenaar.

The Cadillac News sent questions to both candidates. Whichever candidate secures the party's nomination in the August primary will face Moolenaar in the general election.

Anthony Feig

• Tell us about your personal and professional background.

I was raised by working class people; switchboard operators, secretaries, and welders. My mother raised me as a single mom. As a kid, I fell in love with science, a passion that would inspire me to further my education. I never had benefits like health insurance. I was a part-time student who paid my own way through college. Sometimes I worked three part-time jobs at once — unloading trucks, delivering flowers, working in group homes — but what I learned was worth it. Now I have a career I love as a geoscientist and educator at Central Michigan University. My wife, Cathy, is a native Michigander. She and I moved to Mt. Pleasant in 2008 and we could not imagine a better place to raise our two sons. We love to hike, camp, and explore our district’s beautiful natural spaces. Our kids never want to move.

• If elected, what would your top legislative priorities be?

Protecting and improving the quality of life for the 4th District is my top legislative priority. Healthcare legislation must guarantee that rural care networks can stay open, close the gap between private insurance payouts and Medicare payouts, lower the Medicare age threshold, and allow the federal government to directly negotiate drug prices.

We must protect the natural environment that makes our communities places people want to live and others want to visit. I support federal funding for PFAS testing of residential wells, and research into its effects on crops and wildlife. We should reinstate popular consumer incentive programs for energy saving appliances, consumer goods and create tax incentives for residential geothermal heating and cooling. I would work to appropriate funds supporting farmers as they adapt to a changing climate. We can lead the world in adaptive agriculture.

• Republican John Moolenaar last won election by more than 20 points. Have you seen any evidence that the result could be different this time around if you are the Democratic candidate that faces him in November?

Campaigning during a pandemic is different. We’re all new to this, nothing’s proven yet, and old rules don’t apply. My team is bold and creative in our campaign approach and we are not afraid to innovate.

We moved to virtual operations in March, before the pandemic shutdown went into effect. We’re engaging voters where they are right now-- in front of their screens, on their phones, and at their mailboxes—staying healthy.

Everyone wants a representative who cares about their well-being and focuses on the things that matter. We are running a campaign to win - a campaign that listens to what voters in this district have to say. I’m able to do these things thanks to a district-wide, dedicated volunteer base, the generosity of primary election donors, and my talented campaign staff. Every single person who has believed in my candidacy is the reason we will win.

• What is your opinion of the national debate surrounding police brutality?

Our nation was founded on the bold vision that every person is created equal. Our elected officials must answer the call to fulfill that promise. Tomorrow is too long to wait for justice. The murders of George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Breonna Taylor called our collective attention to the fact that too many Black Americans die at the hands of police, whose job is to serve and protect us. As your Congressman, I will support legislation to strengthen and expand the Voting Rights Act. I support the Justice in Policing Act and will work with the Congressional Black Caucus on their agenda. In addition to reforms focusing specifically on combating institutionalized racism in policing, I will limit use of military style weapons and equipment by law enforcement agencies, as this will de-escalate police actions and make our communities safer. I will advocate for policing that is community-focused and community-accountable.

• If you are elected, by the time you are sworn in, the coronavirus pandemic will be nearly a year old. What role do you see Congress playing in the second year of the pandemic?

First: Testing. If we don’t know where the virus is spreading, we can’t mitigate it effectively. It’s in Congress’ power to designate a fund to cover tests and production and distribution of PPE.

Second: Hazard pay for essential workers. This doesn’t stop with our dedicated medical personnel, but must include everyone from farm workers to bus drivers on the front lines. Finally: Congress has a responsibility to support public health. Mitch McConnell is wrong — The federal government should support states. States provide the services, the support, and are the bulwark of emergency response. I would coauthor legislation supporting states, ensuring that rural areas aren’t shortchanged. It’s hard to estimate the cost, because we still don’t know how much States will need thanks to GOP stalling and the administration’s incompetence. But we can’t just wait and see how bad things get. We’ve got to act now; I’m ready to do that.

• Will the pandemic permanently change our government and our way of life?

The pandemic will change the way our government and our citizens respond to public health crises. We need to react smarter so our way of life is not threatened. We can plan more effectively so that our economy, our children’s schools, and our hospitals are not overwhelmed and shut down. We can learn from this pandemic response. We must put energy and thought towards proactively preparing emergency protocols, focusing on education and awareness about how we are all connected, and how our health and economic activities impact others. By taking these precautionary steps, we will protect our economy and save American lives.

• What opportunities for economic growth do you see in Michigan's 4th congressional district?

We are the key to economic development. By creating a place where people want to live, work, and visit, we can support existing businesses and attract new firms. Federal investment in protecting the environment, developing clean energy, restoring our infrastructure, expanding high-speed internet access, and investing in education, health care, and worker training drives local economic growth.

In the 4th district, we need an economy that supports our local businesses, provides for our workforce, and ensures our quality of life. Investments in infrastructure and education help existing businesses thrive, attract new businesses to our district, and encourage entrepreneurship. Workers need training for 21st century jobs. This can be provided through our secondary and post-secondary educational institutions and by partnering with local unions. Finally, I will work to ensure everyone has access to food, housing, health care, and recreation so that we can all enjoy life in our communities.

• What are your environmental priorities for the district?

A diverse energy portfolio is key to national security and quality of life. I support expanding renewable energy sources including wind, solar, and geothermal and the development of a nationwide electric transportation infrastructure. I oppose the expansion of oil, gas, and mineral extraction into protected lands, especially those held sacred by Native communities. The rollbacks of federal environmental regulations have allowed unnecessary destruction of our environment.

I’m a scientist who has studied climate change and a neighbor who has seen its effect on our community. In 2019, increased rainfall prevented farmers from planting crops, and this spring several communities were devastated by flooding and dam failures. We’re done talking about “if‘ climate change is happening. Now it’s time to respond. Our environment is affected by climate change, but so is our economic welfare. We can take advantage of our unique setting in this district to build an environmentally sustainable economy.

• Would your answer to any of the above questions change depending on whether the president is re-elected?

No. The biggest challenges in our district are our health, economy, and climate. These issues exist regardless of which administration is in power.

However, we stand now not at a moment of a lifetime, but at a moment of history. We can choose to have a government that protects our environment; collects and distributes resources equitably; and enfranchises people of all races.

It is time for a new patriotism, rooted in compassion and hope. This is what binds us together as proud Michiganders and Americans. Helping our neighbors and lifting each other up with dignity is the most patriotic thing we can do.

The things necessary to secure our future remain, regardless of who occupies the White House. I believe electing Joe Biden will make it easier to accomplish our goals. He will restore honesty and integrity to our government, represent us all, and make sure no one is forgotten.

• Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

No.

Jerry Hilliard

• Tell us about your personal and professional background.

I am a candidate for the U.S. Congress in our 4th Congressional District. I graduated from Harrison High School, not far from Cadillac. Also, I have lived most of my life in the 4th District including Gladwin County, Roscommon County and Isabella County where I now live. I had a successful business career in Northern Michigan before I taught high school business and now I teach economics at Mid Michigan College and Lansing Community College. I have an undergraduate degree in Education from Central Michigan University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Michigan-Flint.

• If elected, what would your top legislative priorities be?   

Solving the climate crisis and the pollution problems that go with it are the underlying priorities in the 4th Congressional District. We have been hit hard by PFAS and other industrial pollutants and need to make the federal government and corporations who caused the problems pay for the cleanup. The silver lining is that many of the jobs created in this cleanup process are jobs that are hard to outsource to other areas and generally are good paying jobs we need to improve our economy and begin to rebuild our middle class. A strong middle class helps create good opportunities for people in low paying jobs to pull themselves out of poverty while also creating strong markets for businesses to sell to. We also need to provide affordable healthcare for all citizens, either by a public option that would make Medicare available to everyone or strengthening the affordable care act.         

• Republican John Moolenaar last won election by more than 20 points. Have you seen any evidence that the result could be different this time around if you are the Democratic candidate that faces him in November?

The political environment has changed significantly since last cycle. Voter enthusiasm for Democrats has increased dramatically, new voter registrations are way up, a very popular and capable candidate is at the top of the ticket, and declining popularity for his opponent. Mail in voting has been made it much easier, which will increase turnout and when Democrats have high turnout they win. I am running for a second consecutive election cycle so I am starting with name recognition in every county. I increased total votes from the last midterm election by 21,000 votes, which was a 24% increase. My message of rebuilding the middle class and affordable healthcare has resonated throughout the district, it is a much more competitive race now. Also, John Moolenaar has voted against the middle class on infrastructure which would create good paying jobs we need, extending housing assistance during the pandemic, student loan assistance and more.

• What is your opinion of the national debate surrounding police brutality?

It is a cause that is way overdue, no wonder the anger is so great. I believe the vast majority of people in law enforcement do their job well but that does not excuse those who don’t. The protests started out peacefully and I believe would have stayed that way if some people not originally involved had not seen an opportunity to create violence and destruction for their own purposes.

• If you are elected, by the time you are sworn in, the coronavirus pandemic will be nearly a year old. What role do you see Congress playing in the second year of the pandemic?

Congress needs to pass legislation that makes sure we provide ample medical and testing supplies to all states and cities, not just the states and cities the President thinks are Democratic. We need legislation that keeps people from going into bankruptcy because they happened to be unlucky enough to come down with the virus. Also, we need to pass legislation that will pay for study and analysis of the data and the mistakes that were made so that we will never let it get out of control again, should another virus appear.

• Will the pandemic permanently change our government and our way of life?

No. The change was when the current administration decided to disband the team that was responsible for monitoring the pandemic environment, creating an effective strategy and informing the public. The next change of administration will learn from the mistakes made by this administration and re-start a new team to manage the pandemic environment with more emphasis and resources to do the job correctly.

• What opportunities for economic growth do you see in Michigan's 4th congressional district?

There are many but the one I think could do the most, the quickest is world class high speed broadband, there has been talk about rural broadband in the 4th District for years but nothing has been done. When government spends money on infrastructure that meets a high value need it pays society back many times over the amount of money invested. I consider high speed broadband on a par with when President Eisenhower decided to create the interstate highway system which has been paying us back for well over 60 years in increased productivity. World class broadband would create immediate high paying jobs to build the infrastructure and allow the high tech jobs of the future, where people can work at home, to come to the 4th District. We have a lot to love in the 4th District, nature, summer sports, winter sports, fishing, hunting but we need jobs. The sooner we get started the better.

• What are your environmental priorities for the district?

PFAS contamination is the most important and dangerous problem in our environment, the state of Michigan has passed new rules that go into effect August 3rd to clean up these chemicals in our environment but we can’t do it alone. At the federal level I will sponsor legislation to provide more money to the state of Michigan and force the Dept. of Defense to completely clean up the contaminants from the Oscoda Military Base. I would work with the EPA to make the cleanup of industrial pollution a higher priority in their agency. Unfortunately, we have a problem in Michigan with the bottled water extraction industry but as the state is considered the “owner‘ of the water rather than Federal Government I would be somewhat limited, but I would work with the EPA and the Department of Agriculture and the Michigan legislators to put some regulations on how much water could be extracted for sale, especially out of state.

• Would your answer to any of the above questions change depending on whether the president is re-elected?

Yes, if the president is re-elected, along with his enablers in the U.S. House and Senate like and many other elected officials it may end up being true that the pandemic changes our government and our way of life in a negative way that we might never recover from!

• Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

No.

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