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MichCapCon Profile: The 30th State Senate District Primary

Ed. Note: This is part of a series of articles profiling a limited number of political races where the archives of Michigan Capitol Confidential store significant information that may be of interest to free-market inclined voters. In each of these profiles, the article will cover only the candidates who have compiled a vote history or other record that has been covered by this news service since it began as a print publication in fall 2007.

This is not to slight the candidates whose public record has not yet appeared in MichCapCon. In some cases, voters may determine that these are the best possible candidates in a given race. All voters are strongly encouraged to give every candidate a serious look.

The purpose of this series is to tell the interesting stories that are known about those issues that have been examined by this page over the last several years. MichCapCon has always targeted free-market issues, not individual political personalities. As such, these profiles should be viewed as only a small part of the overall policy picture.

This is not a comprehensive voter guide, not a comprehensive picture of any candidate and certainly not an endorsement of any candidate.

For a larger list of votes written up by MichCapCon, please see:, and use the search feature on the home page. Additionally, every roll call vote for every bill considered by the Michigan Legislature since 2001 is available at


Michigan's 30th state senate district is basically all of Ottawa County, which lies between Kent County and Lake Michigan. It has the largest Republican base in the Michigan Senate and is thus the district least likely to send a Democrat to Lansing this November. This seat is currently held by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits.

The three Republicans entered into the primary are Brett VanderKamp of Holland, the owner-operator and co-founder of the New Holland Brewery; Timothy O'Donnell , a firefighter from Spring Lake; and current state Rep. Arlan Meekhof of West Olive.

A lone Democrat - John Chester of Holland - runs unopposed in that party's primary.

Meekhof is the only candidate in either primary with a public policy record that has appeared in MichCapCon. The lawmaker generally votes with the other GOP members in the House, but there are also some departures from this pattern and other actions that are noteworthy.

He was the sponsor of an amendment that - if it had passed - would have put the Democrat-led Michigan House on record as supporting the idea of making Michigan into a right-to-work state (see: Meekhof demanded a record roll call vote on this amendment, and 34 other Republicans voted for it, while 14 House Republicans sided with the Democrats.

Demanding recorded roll call votes on amendments that advance bold public policy goals such right-to-work is a rare and unique behavior. Often, lawmakers who introduce amendments of this sort do not ask for the record roll call votes and allow the party that controls the chamber to gavel down the amendment.

Insisting upon recorded votes for amendments such as these is not without some professional risk for the few lawmakers who do it, because it can force politicians in both parties to go on record with issues that many would rather hide from. See also:

Like the large majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate, Meekof opposed the $1.4 billion in state tax hikes that were approved at the end of 2007 (see: When it came time to spend these tax hikes, Meekhof approved spending increases of more than $372 million above the previous year allocation (see: For comparison: A half dozen GOP lawmakers kept their spending increases well under $100 million for that year, despite the projected large influx of new revenue following the tax increase votes.

The vast majority of Republicans in the House voted for a bill to increase state subsidies going to the electric car industry. Meekhof was one of only six Republicans voting against increasing the subsidy for private companies (see:

He was one of 17 House GOP to endorse the creation of a new tourism tax, while 34 Republicans in the House voted against it (see:

More than two-thirds of the GOP caucus in the House voted against passing a law that allows Kalamazoo to hold a tax vote for the purpose of building a sports stadium that would benefit Western Michigan University and a private, minor league hockey team owner (see: Meekhof was one of 14 GOP to vote in favor of allowing Kalamazoo the power to hold the tax vote.

A worker retraining program with sketchy results was financed by way of a 59.9 percent general fund spending hike in one state budget that passed during 2008 (see: A majority of the Republicans in the Michigan House voted against this spending hike, and thus creation of the new state program.

Meekhof voted for it.

Two votes in 2007 authorized the borrowing a total of $460 million to pay for government spending. In each case, a majority of lawmakers and a majority of the Republicans voted for the borrowing and spending (see:  In both cases, Meekhof voted against the borrowing and spending. He was one of 21 House GOP to vote against borrowing $60 million and one of 20 to vote against another plan to spend $400 million in borrowed money.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce asserted that one vote in late 2008 represented a "sneak attack" on taxpayers and potentially could cause a property tax hike of between $3.2 and $7.6 billion (see: Only 20 of the 52 House Republicans supported the "sneak attack," and Meekhof was one of them.

However, the Michigan Senate refused to consider this bill and it died at the end of the 2007-2008 session of the Michigan Legislature.  Then, at the beginning of the current session of the Legislature, a bill very similar to the "sneak attack" legislation was again brought before the Michigan House.

This time, 11 of 43 Republicans voted for it. But this time Meekhof voted AGAINST the potential property tax hike (see: 


See also: 

MichCapCon Profile: The 12th Congressional District Primary



Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.