Kalamazoo County commissioner faces small business owner in 61st House District race

Republican Bronwyn Haltom and Democrat Christine Morse are facing off to represent the 61st District in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Morse is a current Kalamazoo County commissioner representing District 9. She has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from Wayne State University Law School.

“Christine is Michigan native, former attorney, Kalamazoo County Commissioner, public school parent of 3, breast cancer survivor, and spouse of a Navy Veteran,” she said in her responses to the Vote411.org voter guide from the League of Women Voters.

Haltom Attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College and transferred to the University of Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree.

“I was born here, educated here, and own a small business here. I believe in our community and am committed to serving our neighbors to move Michigan forward,” Haltom said in responses to the League of Michigan Voters voter guide.

Haltom defeated Tom Graham in the August primary election. Morse was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

The 61st District contains the city of Portage, Oshtemo, Texas, Prairie Ronde and Schoolcraft townships and the villages of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg in Kalamazoo County. Current GOP state Rep. Brandt Iden is term-limited.

MLive Media Group has again partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan Education Fund to provide candidate information and other voting resources to our readers. Each candidate was asked to answer a series of questions about their policy stances.

Information on all state and federal races and many of Michigan’s county and local races will be available at Vote411.org.

Here’s a look how both candidates responded to questions from the League of Women Voters candidate survey:

EDUCATION: What is your position on the role of public funding of education in Michigan? What measures do you support/propose to improve educational outcomes and accessibility for all Michigan students?

Morse: As a public school graduate and parent, public education funding is my top issue. Teachers are vastly underpaid and class sizes are unreasonably high. In addition to rectifying the disinvestment we’ve seen over the last couple of decades, we are 50th in the country in reading growth. I believe we need to invest seriously in our public education – both through skilled trades programs, retraining, and higher education if we want our kids to be able to build a life here in Michigan. We also need to reevaluate our testing standards and make sure to involve educators in the process of rewriting.

Haltom: Public education is the most important investment the State of Michigan can make in our future, and I support robust education funding that prepares Michigan students for the jobs of tomorrow. The legislature must find long-term solutions to address Michigan’s third grade reading levels that bring together parents, teachers, administrators and students. I support measures to expand opportunities that empower parents and guardians to make decisions that best fit their student’s educational needs. We must also promote and invest in skilled trades and vocational learning as an additional path to career readiness.

ECONOMIC SECURITY: What policies do you support to increase jobs and help Michigan residents improve their economic positions, in general and given the pandemic?

Morse: We need to go back to being a state that fully supports the labor unions that helped build us. We need to restore Prevailing Wage, repeal Right to Work, and pass a bill equivalent to One Fair Wage. I support retraining programs like Michigan Reconnect and Going Pro, and believe we need to implement New Deal-like programs similar to the Conservation Corp and the Works Progress Administration to sustainably bring people back to work.

Haltom: Now more than ever, Michigan must have an economic climate that encourages growth and investment and brings families and good-paying jobs back to our state. I support policies that encourage companies to innovate, expand, and hire a Michigan workforce without burdensome regulations and high taxes. I believe the Governor should work with the legislature to produce a plan that allows our economy to re-open safely, while supporting small businesses that have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.

ELECTIONS: What state policies do you support regarding Michigan elections, voting and campaign funding? Do you support mailing ballots to all eligible voters?

Morse: I support campaign finance reform including requiring public reporting for all campaign contributions. I do support mailing ballots to all eligible voters and adding ballot drop-off locations at grocery stores and libraries with the assistance of local clerks.

Haltom: I support efforts to promote civic engagement and assist all who are eligible exercise their right to vote. Transparency is crucial in ensuring the integrity of Michigan’s campaign finance system, and giving voters access to timely and accurate funding sources holds elected officials accountable to those they represent.

ENVIRONMENT/ENERGY: What actions or policies do you support to protect Michigan’s water, air and land for current and future generations? What is your position on energy efficiency and renewable energy?

Morse: Kalamazoo County has been dealing with flooding issues for many years. As a member of the Texas Township Flooding Taskforce, I believe we need more collaboration between state and local governments to protect our water resources – especially in the face of climate change. We have also had three instances of PFAS contamination in our district. I support state action to address PFAS contamination including reinstating Polluter Pay and extending support to fire departments to change the kind of firefighting foam they use. I support increasing Michigan’s Energy Efficiency Standard to 25% by 2025.

Haltom: Protecting Michigan’s precious natural resources is essential – I support current state laws that protect our lands, air and Great Lakes from pollution, and policies that promote environmental stewardship and energy innovation. Modernizing Michigan’s energy infrastructure with sustainable solutions and allowing the renewable energy sector to thrive will create new jobs and reduce our environmental impact.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: How would you address the racial, economic, health, education, etc. inequities, including Michigan’s 20% of children and 17% of seniors living in poverty?

Morse: Increasing access to quality education, housing, and healthcare are the most important ways we can address poverty and move our community toward justice. As a breast cancer survivor I want to prioritize working to pass a bill guaranteeing healthcare for Michiganders with preexisting conditions. No family should go bankrupt because of a medical diagnosis. I believe we can also do more to change state zoning laws so that municipalities can prioritize affordable housing development.

Haltom: Addressing these will require meaningful bipartisan legislation specific to the issue at hand, though increased funding for early education, skilled trades programs and vocational learning will provide greater opportunity for communities impacted by generational poverty and institutional inequities. I would also oppose policies – such as a 45-cent gas tax – that disproportionately burden the poorest communities in our state.

GUNS: Do you believe that Michigan has a gun violence problem? If so, what measures would you support to alleviate this problem?

Morse: I am proud to have received the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate Distinction for 2020. I believe we need to pass universal background checks, close the “gun show” and “boyfriend” loopholes, and pass red flag laws to make sure that domestic abusers do not have access to a firearm.

Haltom: Our community has felt the devastation of gun violence first-hand. I support common-sense measures to prevent criminals and those wishing to do us harm from acquiring deadly weapons. Increased funding for mental health programs and school security officers will help deter preventable tragedies and keep Kalamazoo safe.

Click here for more of MLive’s Election Day coverage from across the state, or here for full coverage of Kalamazoo-area elections.

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