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Five candidates are vying for the 76th District State Representative seat in Michigan for the Nov. 6 election. Incumbent Republican Roy Schmidt will be facing Democrat Winnie Brinks, along with write-in candidate Bing Goei, William Mohr (U.S. Taxpayers Party), and Keith Allard (Independent). Brinks started as a write-in candidate, but she won the Democratic primary and is on the November ballot because she won that primary.
Rep. Schmidt was involved in an election-rigging scheme with House Speaker Jase Bolger. The rigging plan was a filing deadline swap, where Schmidt, who has held the 76th District House seat as a Democrat for nearly four years, switched party affiliation to Republican in an effort to quell candidate opposition. The election scheme was investigated by police; Schmidt’s actions were found not to be illegal, but were considered ethically inappropriate by many politicians and citizens. Schimdt has publicly apologized for the election-rigging scheme, but the dynamic of the race has already been changed.
Winnie Brinks said that education would be her first priority if elected.
“My number one priority is to support education,” said Brinks. “Michigan’s Constitution and my values are clear: we have an obligation to ensure all students have access to a quality education.”
Brinks, an alumna of Calvin College, said that her worldview is what prompted her to run for the 76th District and serve the people of Grand Rapids.
“As a Calvin College alumna and a member of Sherman Street CRC, my desire to serve the people of Grand Rapids is motivated by the faith and worldview nurtured at Calvin and in my life at Sherman Street Church,” said Brinks. “I will work to restore justice, mercy, integrity and common sense to public policy and civil discourse.”
She said she is looking to use her experiences with parenting, education, small business and non-profits to help her represent her district in Lansing.
“I’m a mother, caseworker and education advocate,” said Brinks. “I’ve run a non-profit that helped disadvantaged women, started a small business, worked as an educator and been a caseworker helping businesses train and retain employees. Now I’m looking to take my experiences to Lansing to build a Michigan where we can all thrive and where young people can and will want to live.”
In 2010, Bing Goei was defeated as the Republican nominee for State House for the 75th District, which included Grand Rapids. In 2012, redistricting placed Grand Rapids in the 76th District, in which Goei is now a write-in candidate for.
Endorsed by The Grand Rapids Press, Goei is a small-business owner who has been in business for over 30 years. If elected, his priorities include improving the economy and education.
“My priority would be to ensure that our economy continues to grow,” said Goei. “But what I think needs to be done is that our economy needs to grow, but that also requires then, a strongly traditional system that allows us to be able to train and equip our students to become the type of employees needed to fill the type of jobs that we have had open.”
Goei said his work with various school systems has helped him to concentrate on education as a priority of his campaign.
“When you talk about education, I’ve been involved in Grand Rapids public school programs,” he said. “I’m a graduate of a public school. I’ve been involved with the Christian school system. My children went to a Christian school system. I’ve been involved with charter schools. So I believe education for the child has to be whatever fits that child’s needs best.”
Goei stated that his ability to follow through on campaign promises is what separates him from the other candidates in the race.
“I am a person who has done all of the things that all of my other opponents only talk about,” Goei said. “When you talk about job creation, I’ve been in business for over 30 years and I have created jobs. I have helped small businesses grow. I started my own entrepreneurial setup program.
“That sets me apart from all my other opponents,” he continued. “I have done the things that most politicians only talk about. If you look at my experience, if you look at my website, if you look at all the things I have done in this community, then you can see why I believe that.”
Schmidt’s election-rigging scandal was also an impetus for Goei’s decision to enter the race.
“My response to entering this race was really a response to what was an injustice that was done by Rep. Roy Schmidt when he tried to manipulate the system,” he said. “And for me it was not a political issue at that time; it was a justice issue.”
The scheme was also an incentive for Democrat Winnie Brinks to enter the race.
“I had not planned to run for State Representative, but when I saw Roy Schmidt’s attempt to rig an election in America, I was so disappointed that I took up the challenge to put my name and vision before voters so they will be able to hold Schmidt accountable for his attempt to ‘perpetrate a fraud on the electorate’ (as Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth called it),” said Brinks in an email statement.
William Mohr is a U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate for the 76th District. Mohr’s priorities for Grand Rapids are rooted in strong family values. He is also concerned with economic growth and lowering taxes.
“We still need some economic reform in Michigan,” said Mohr. “My overall plan is to deal with economic issues, and relieve taxes and regulatory burdens on business, small business specifically. But the crucial areas that need to be worked on are family and social issues.”
Mohr emphasized that strong values are the underpinning to economic prosperity.
“I believe that any economic moves we make are going to be short-lived unless we get a couple of other things in place,” said Mohr. “We need to encourage traditional, biblical families as much as possible. We’ve got a 62 percent divorce rate in Michigan; we’ve got to get that corrected. Education, and the moral values that we used to have, we need to get those back into society.”
Mohr said his emphasis on these values is something that distinguishes him from the other candidates in the race.
“That’s what separates me from the all the rest of the candidates,” he said.
Mohr said his major motivation for entering the race for 76th District House seat is apolitical. His reasons for running are founded on his concern for the next generation’s futures.
“I fear for my children and my grandchildren’s future,” Mohr said. “I’m watching our nation and our state fall apart, and it has to be corrected, because if we continue in this path, my grandchildren won’t have a free country to live in.”
“By the way, that’s not a political answer,” he said with a laugh. “I mean that.”
Keith Allard is running as an independent for the 76th District. If elected, he said he plans to focus on structural and budget issues in the state.
“I’m mainly focused on solving the structural issues in the state that I’m concerned cause budget issues right now, while also causing debt for future generations,” said Allard.
Allard said that his primary motivation for running in this race is his dissatisfaction with current elected officials and their priorities.
“I’ve worked in Lansing since I’ve finished college,” said Allard. “I am tremendously disappointment in the behavior of our elected officials. And it’s not just Roy Schmidt; it’s everybody who has put their own careers ahead of the people of Grand Rapids.”
Allard is the only independent candidate in Grand Rapids history to qualify for the ballot. This achievement offers a contrast between him and the other candidates, Allard said.
“I’m the first independent in Grand Rapids history to ever qualify for the ballot,” said Allard. “And I did so by talking honestly about the issues and putting forward a real plan of solutions.”
Despite naysayers, Allard was determined to carry on his campaign for the 76th District.
“Everyone said that couldn’t be done,” said Allard. “And we did it, and we have been fighting ever since to bring a real message to people, not [the message] ‘I’m not Roy Schmidt,’ but these are the problems our state faces, and this is what we can do to solve them.”
Allard said his detachment from a political party is an advantage because it disentangles him from various interest groups.
“Because I’m not part of a party, I can be honest with people,” he said. “I’m not indebted to all the special interests that they have sold out their campaigns to. And I can go out there and actually get to Lansing and stand up for the people of Grand Rapids instead of interest groups.”
The vote for the 76th District House of Representative seat in Michigan will be held on Nov. 6.