Primary forum a polite affair

The primary forum hosted by Voter’s Voice and the League of Women Voters of Brighton/Howell on Thursday was a hugely boring affair.

And that’s a really, really good thing.

The candidates were respectful and polite. WHMI’s Jon King did a wonderful job in moderating; gently, yet assertively, enforcing time limits equally. Questions for the forum were formulated from those submitted in advance by anyone interested, including readers of The Livingston Post.

While there were areas of genuine disagreement and divergence, it was all handled in the nicest of ways.

The evening felt a lot like jumping into cool water after a scorching summer day; it was soothing and relaxing, yet invigorating, and it gave me great hope that our battered democracy just might triumph over the insanity that has become our 24/7 national political reality.

If that was the only takeaway from the forum, that would have been enough.

However, I was reminded briefly of how crack-like — pervasive, addictive, and destructive — our current national political theater has become. Surely jacked up by the spectacle in Washington, D.C., that I witnessed earlier in the day during the House investigation of the serial-anti-Trump-messaging FBI agent who investigated Russian influence on the 2016 election, I, for a brief moment, thought there might be a firework or two when I saw Bob Bezotte and Steve Williams in attendance.

The two are locked in one of the most contentious primary races in Livingston County as they go mano-a-mano for the Republican nomination for the District 6 seat on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. The seat had been held by Williams when Bezotte, then the retired county sheriff, knocked him out in the 2016 Republican primary; Williams is now trying to knock him out. This primary race has become, in part, a Facebook rumble punctuated with Bezotte calling the chair of the Livingston Democrats a “liar” during a public meeting. You can read all about that brou-ha-ha by clicking here.

Candidates for the newly created Circuit Court judgeship discuss issues at the Thursday, July 12, 2018, candidate forum. From left to right are L. Suzanne Geddis, Dennis Brewer, Tara Pearson, and Monica Copeland.

I was expecting the race for the new 44th Circuit Court judgeship to be lively. (Running for the spot are current District Judge L. Suzanne Geddis, who said she’s running for circuit court because it would be a “promotion,” and attorneys Dennis Brewer, Monica Copeland and Tara Pearson.) But the candidates agreed on so much: they’d follow the law if Michigan voters approve the legalization of marijuana; they recognize the importance and value of alternative courts; they stressed the importance of timeliness in the efficient functioning of the courtroom; and they know the huge cost of opioids in the community.

Brewer broke away from the pack with his closing statement, in which he addressed his prior run against District Court Judge Theresa Brennan and the current investigation into her behavior on the bench.

“Residents are sick and tired of scandal and corruption,” he said. “People ask, ‘Who will stand up for us?’”

Brewer said Brennan’s behavior is why he ran against her in 2014 in a race in which she came out on top by nearly 14 points. (A lot has happened since then, and you can read our extensive Brennan coverage by clicking here.)

Brewer said Brennan’s behavior was why he ran against her in 2014.

“I was proud to stand up then, and I’m proud to stand up now. I am the only candidate who can say that.”

In the Republican primary for the 22nd state Senate seat, Lana Theis, term-limited from the 42nd state House seat she currently occupies, and Joseph Marinaro, a business analyst at the University of Michigan, had some areas of divergence.

While Marinaro would eliminate the Line 5 petroleum pipeline under the straits of Mackinac, Theis said the pipeline could be rehabilitated.

Marinaro’s “Hell, yes,” answer to whether he supports establishment of an independent commission to draw district lines in Michigan was greeted by a round of polite (of course) applause from the audience, while Theis questioned whether it is possible to come up with “truly independent commission” and said she did not support the proposal.

“But if it passes, it’s the law,” she said.

In his closing, Marinaro said he wasn’t asking for votes; instead, he was asking voters to “wake up.”

In the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional seat currently held by Republican Mike Bishop, Elissa Slotkin and Chris Smith both oppose privatizing Social Security and Medicare and favor federal intervention into the student debt crisis, they had different ideas on how to reduce gun violence. While Slotkin would focus on universal background checks, closing loopholes, banning bump stocks, and raising the age to purchase firearms, Smith wants military weapons banned, and the shield gun sellers have against liability lawsuits removed.

Smith drew a round of applause in his closing, in which he said that there is one political party “in denial about what the Russians did.”
“We need to address that,” he said. “We need to treat the Russians as the adversary they are.”

The big winners of the candidate forum weren’t the people on the stage.

The winners included the new League of Women Voters of Brighton/Howell, a group that was once active, but which ceased to be years ago when I was managing editor of The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. It was then that the paper took over organizing the candidate forums because that’s what newspapers should do. (Except for these days, when the local paper didn’t even sign on as a forum sponsor.)

The event, put on by the LWV and Voter’s Voice, was a success, and a signal of better things to come.

The biggest winners of the evening, though, were the couple hundred people who were treated to what has become these days a rare display of political ideas and civility.

If you weren’t able to attend, you can see the forum by going to the LWV Brighton/Howell’s Facebook page. Click here.

The General Election Forum hosted by the same organizations is set for 6:30-9 p.m. Thursday, October 4, 2018, at the Hartland Educational Support Services Center, 9525 East Highland Road.


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Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.