Sen. Mike Kowall, Matt Maddock and Ron Molnar
In Michigan’s 15th Senate District Republican primary, a core member of the Tea Party Patriots of West Oakland County, who is also a member of the Oakland County Republican Committee, Matt Maddock, is trying to unseat incumbent Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake. Maddock, a Milford business owner, has been taking Sen. Kowall to task over votes he has cast on key issues.
“This race is about fighting for Republican principles,” Maddock said. “There is not a single person in the state of Michigan who has knocked on the doors of as many Republicans as I have. Most of them tell me they’re fed up with Republican politicians who don’t represent true Republican principles and values. They ask why they should vote for Republicans who just turn around and act like Democrats. That’s why Republicans keep losing elections; millions of people who believe in Republican principles are saying: ‘Why bother voting at all?’
“My opponent Mike Kowall was one of the eight Senate Republicans who voted for Medicaid expansion; is that representing Republican principles?” Maddock asked. “He voted (unofficially) to increase the gas tax by 44 cents; is that standing up for Republican principles? He voted for the Detroit bailout; is that standing up for Republican principles? Mike Kowall is eligible to seek one more term in the Senate, but he’s already acting and voting like a lobbyist.”
Sen. Kowall told Capitol Confidential that he views the primary race as being about staying the course to complete Michigan’s economic turnaround.
“This race is basically about keeping Michigan on the right track,” Sen. Kowall said. “Under the leadership of Gov. Rick Snyder and Brooks Paterson, we’ve turned things around. I see it here in Oakland County where our unemployment numbers are down to pre-recession levels. But it is extremely important that we keep going forward, not backward.”
A third candidate on the GOP primary ballot in the 15th Senate District is road-builder Ron Molnar, of White Lake.
“What I bring to the table is my road building experience,” Molnar said. “If elected I’d want to be the chairman of the Transportation committee. I’d ask the head of the road builders association why we’re building roads in the most expensive way possible.
“In general, I’d go along with the Governor,” Molnar continued. “I don’t see any advantage in gridlock. I know, from my experience as a road builder, that sometimes you have to just hold your nose and make a deal even if you don’t like a lot of what’s involved. That’s how I’d be different from my opponents.”
Capitol Confidential asked Molnar for an example of when Sen. Kowall has opposed the policy of Gov. Rick Snyder.
“On the bridge to Canada,” Molnar responded.
Capitol Confidential asked Molnar if his campaign has a website.
“No, I don’t have a website,” Molnar said. “Look, on this campaign I’m really a one-man band. But as a Senator, people would be able to reach me directly through my personal cell phone. I don’t think my opponents can say that.”
Michigan’s 15th Senate District is located within Oakland County. It includes the cities of Northville, Novi, Orchard Lake, South Lyon, Walled Lake, and Wixom; and the townships of Commerce, Lyon, Milford, Novi, West Bloomfield and White Lake. It has a 55 percent Republican base, based on the turnouts in the 2008 and 2010 elections.
Capitol Confidential asked the candidates the following question.
Q. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) – the state’s corporate welfare arm – gets about $300 million in annual funding. The most recent Auditor General’s performance audit of the program found that only 19 percent of the jobs originally projected to be created as a result of its projects ever actually materialized.
Would that $300 million be better spent on road funding?
“The current allocation for road funding is not adequate and it is clear that we need to find a means of addressing that,” Sen. Kowall said. “We could disarm completely, use the money spent on MEDC as part of the road funding solution, and watch as other states like Indiana come in and eat our lunch in terms of attracting jobs. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we shouldn’t consider using some of the money that goes to MEDC for roads, but in my opinion using all of it would be a mistake.”
“We have changed MEDC from the way it was under Gov. Jennifer Granholm,” Sen. Kowall continued. “Just giving out large amounts of money without requiring an accounting for how it was used and measuring whether it was being used effectively or not made no sense at all. Under Gov. Snyder we’re no longer doing it that way.”
Taking care of the roads is a basic function of government, what MEDC does isn’t. Even among that 19 percent, the jobs created are a double-edged sword. Let’s say MEDC makes a deal with an out-of-state company that gives them special breaks for coming to Michigan. That company may create some jobs, but at the same time two or three of their competitors, businesses that have been here all along and don’t get the same special breaks, are at a disadvantage. So then they go out of business. What about those people? What about their families?
Molnar: “I’d say if that’s all they (MEDC) has been able to get, it should be dissolved. It doesn’t sound like a very good place to be putting our money.”