State Senate candidates Rep. Sean McCann-D , Sen. Margaret O’Brien-R and Lorence Wenke-L discussed their solutions to the problems at stake this election during a public forum hosted at WMU’s Fetzer Center on Oct. 25.
The candidates were asked questions submitted online regarding healthcare, the drug crisis and education as well as questions taken from audience members.
Mr. Wenke spoke on healthcare by succinctly stating that the current system doesn’t work, but when speaking on specific solutions he said that it’s too big of an issue for one senator to solve.
“I don’t have the solution to healthcare in Michigan or in the U.S.,” said. Sen. O’Brien, when asked the same question, pointed to her voting record.
“In 2014 I supported Medicaid expansion,” she said. “It’s a decision I still support.” Rep. McCann praised the 2014 Medicaid expansion, but he feels that it didn't go far enough.
“We have to do more. We have to expand further. There are probably 100,000 more people in Michigan that could be covered by expansion,” McCann said.
Both Mr. Wenke and Sen. O’Brien asserted their positions as pro-life candidates. Sen. O’Brien rejected the inclusion of abortion under the umbrella of women’s health care saying that she is offended that abortion “is the only thing that comes up when we talk about women’s healthcare.”
Rep. McCann took a pro-choice stance.
“Changes in the supreme court may, eventually, overturn national Roe v. Wade rules meaning the question might fall to the state legislatures,” McCann said, citing concerns with the current state of Federal policy.
All three candidates approved of the idea of education reform, but time constraints limited the discussion of specific policy. The candidates all agreed that changes need to be made so that those who want to get a college degree can afford to pursue one.
All three candidates voiced support for Proposal 1, the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Sen. O’Brien expressed regret that the state legislature did not pass legalization earlier in the year, which she believes would have made regulation easier.
Mr. Wenke and Rep. McCann expressed support of Proposals 2 and 3, which deal with how congressional districts are drawn and expanding voting rights. Sen. O’Brien expressed concerns over the specific language of both ballot proposals.
“Gerrymandering has been going on [forever], but Republicans refined it, turned it into a science,” Mr. Wenke said, speaking on why he thinks Michigan needs Proposal 2.
The candidates then discussed the drug crisis in the United States . For Sen. O’Brien, the solution starts with incorporating physicians into the lawmaking process. Mr. Wenke, on the other hand, believes that making drug manufacturers accountable is the answer. Rep. McCann believes that law enforcement is provided with the lifesaving resources they need, such as Narcan.
“We need to have the resources for our law enforcement. This could come from less resources spent on marijuana regulation,” McCann said, tying into his stance on marijuana legalization.
The last question the candidates were asked was whether or not they had approved of any negative ads regarding the opposition. Both Sen. O’Brien and Mr. Wenke answered that they did not, but Rep. McCann conceded that he had approved advertising that compared himself with Sen. O’Brien. He defended these ads by saying that they are necessary in the “strange arena” of politics. Sen. O’Brien expressed disappointment in the ads, calling for a “return to civility” in politics.
After the forum, Rep. McCann was interviewed about his opinion on the current state of political discourse. When asked whether he agrees with those in the Democratic party he argued that it is impossible to be civil when dealing with a hostile majority party.
“We have to continue to work towards civility. We need to be civil to make the system work for the people,” McCann said.
All three candidates will be up for election on Nov. 6.