Five challenge Moolenaar for 4th Congressional District seat

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Voters throughout Osceola County are going to have their say in the U.S. Congressional race for the fourth district.

In his bid for a second term in Washington, John Moolenaar, R-Midland, is facing five challengers. Democrat Debra Wirth, Libertarian Leonard Schwartz, U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate George Zimmer, Jordan Salvi from the Green Party, and Keith Butkovich of the Natural Law party, are looking to unseat the incumbent in the Republican-strong congressional district.

In an effort to inform voters about where the candidates stand on a few issues, the Herald Review asked the six candidates to provide answers for three questions, dealing with their reason for running for Congress, their thoughts on immigration reform and entitlement programs.

All six candidates were sent questionnaires in which they were to answer the questions in 100 words or less and given 10 days to respond.

Democratic candidate Debra Wirth and Green party candidate Jordan Salvi did not return their questionnaires.

NAME: Keith Butkovich, Natural Law party
  • AGE: 32
  • OCCUPATION: Retail clerk
  • FAMILY: Unmarried, no children
NAME: John Moolenaar, Republican party
  • AGE: 55
  • OCCUPATION: Member of Congress
  • FAMILY: My wife, Amy, and six children continue to reside in Midland

NAME: Leonard Schwartz, Libertarian

  • AGE: 71
  • OCCUPATION: retired economist, lawyer  and professor of business law and economics
  • FAMILY: Single

NAME: George Zimmer, U.S. Taxpayers party

  • AGE: 74
  • OCCUPATION: retired
  • FAMILY: Wife and two grown children

If elected, what is your top priority for the 2017 Congress? Why are you running for office?

BUTKOVICH: I am running because our country is falling off a cliff financially. My goal is to drastically reduce spending and government, end the Federal Reserve and IRS, legalize marijuana, and bring all troops home. We should not be in other countries.

MOOLENAAR: I am aggressively pursuing jobs and economic growth, fiscal responsibility, tax relief for hardworking taxpayers that spurs investment in America, a health care system that puts patients first and national security policies where we win and the terrorists lose. I am also committed to ensuring we keep our promises to our seniors with regard to Social Security and Medicare. 

SCHWARTZ: My opponents think they can spend your money and manage your life better than you can. To send a message that you disagree, vote for me. Libertarians don’t want to spend your money or manage your life. Priorities: (1) End the war on herbal medicines, such as marijuana. (2) Reduce and clarify regulations. Stop the abuse of fines, forfeitures and imprisonment of people who mistakenly violate incomprehensible regulations. (3) Avoid conflict. Intervene in wars and civil wars only if vital to U.S. national security.

ZIMMER: Decrease the size of government, make it efficient and limit the executive branch to its constitutional authority. We must limit the authority of the national committees of the two major parties. They are not serving the people. As a congressman I would use budget controls and the impeachment process to achieve these goals.

Immigration has become a hot topic in this election cycle. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the food and agriculture industry contributes $101.2 billion annually to the state’s economy. Migrant workers, many of them undocumented, and their families live and work in Michigan, and immigration policy affects them. Michigan also is taking in refugees from war-torn Syria. Do you think America’s immigration laws need to be changed? What should be the tenets of any immigration reform legislation?

BUTKOVICH: It needs to be easier to come into this country. The vast majority of people coming here just want to work and have a peaceful life. Those who commit crimes, you arrest and process according to the law.

MOOLENAAR: Along with enforcing current law, I believe Michigan farmers need an immigration system that works for them, not against them. In my view, any effort to reform federal immigration policy must include securing our border, followed by a more streamlined and flexible agricultural guestworker program, one that provides a stable workforce for employers to call upon when sufficient American labor is not available. Additionally, the United States is a humanitarian nation that has welcomed refugees from around the world. We must continue to do so while also being vigilant to ensure those who want to do us harm are not taking advantage of the system.

SCHWARTZ: Immigration policy should focus on people who threaten our safety or who want to sponge off our welfare system. Stop wasting money trying to keep out honest people who want to contribute to our society.

ZIMMER: We have good immigration laws but they seem to be selectively enforced. This has to be stopped. We must stop the cause of refugees in the first place. Our language and law is strange to them causing hatred and violence.

Federal entitlements are the main drivers of rising U.S. debt. What specific steps can be taken to keep programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid solvent and still serve those individuals in need?

BUTKOVICH: I would keep Medicare and Social Security for those currently on it, as this was a promise we made, but it should be eliminated for others, though the money they paid in taxes would be returned to them. It has been shown in studies that you can earn more money on simple investments than what Social Security would pay you. Medicare and Medicaid has shown to drastically increase medical costs for all, just like ObamaCare has. Charities and religious institutions can take care of those currently on Medicaid.

MOOLENAAR: America is facing an unsustainable debt of over $19 trillion. As a member of the House Committee on the Budget, I fully understand the challenge our nation faces. That is why I voted for “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America,” which addresses our debt problem by achieving balance within 10 years. It would grow the economy and make government more efficient, effective and accountable — without raising taxes. It gives states flexibility to make improvements to Medicaid, requires the President to submit a plan to make Social Security solvent, and protects Medicare for our seniors. 

SCHWARTZ: (1) End the war on herbal medicines, such as marijuana. (2) Reduce or simplify regulations that make healthcare expensive, but not safer. (3) Stop wasting money and lives on foreign quagmires and other wars that aren’t vital to U.S. national security.

ZIMMER: Federal entitlements have run amok. There must be careful scrutiny and oversight. Prohibiting advertising by ambulance-chasing trial lawyers, and medicine makers would bring down medical costs.