House candidates: Education funding, revenue sharing, rural economy, representing constituents are priorities

MECOSTA COUNTY — As the Aug. 7 primary election nears, two local Democrat candidates are vying for the opportunity to have his name appear on the November ballot to represent the residents of Mecosta, Osceola and Wexford counties.

George Huffman III and Brendan Maturen hope to win the Democrat nomination in two weeks. Whoever wins the nomination will face incumbent Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, for the chance to represent the residents of the 102nd district in the Michigan House of Representatives. The seat holds a two-year term. Potvin was first elected to the position in 2010.

Huffman, 35, of Remus, was born in Hollywood, Fla., but has been a Michigan resident for 29 years, eight of those in Remus. The father of four has been married 15 years, is a county singer, small business owner and has a “general education.”

Maturen was born in Lincoln Park in 1969 and has lived in Mecosta County since 2006. He holds degrees in journalism and law, and has practiced law, mostly in public service, for 14 years. He is married to Dr. Lory Read, a family physician, and their two children attend Morley Stanwood schools. He coaches youth soccer, acts in community theater, volunteers at his children’s schools and spends his free time with his family.

In an effort to help voters see where the candidates stand on various issues, the Herald Review posed several questions to them. Answers were limited to 75 words.

Herald Review: Funding for public education often is a primary concern of both elected officials and voters. What is your opinion on the state's role of funding public education? What, if any, changes should be made to the state's support of public education?

GEORGE HUFFMAN III:My opinion on state funding for education is it is poorly managed by our state government. I would like to see unused school funds placed into a secured emergency school fund where it may be used in time of need, instead of going to the general fund to be used whenever for whatever.

BRENDAN MATUREN: The state should make education a priority.  Quality schools are the foundation of strong communities.  They prepare our children to compete in the global, 21st century economy and attract employers to our area.  Our Republican government has cut school funding, moving us in the wrong direction.  To improve our schools, we need to reform lottery funding, redirect excess spending from other areas of state government, including legislators’ salaries and benefits, and maximize schools’ administrative efficiency.

County road commissions no longer receive enough state funding to cover all of their scheduled road project costs. Often townships are required to help fund the projects. What is your opinion of townships sharing the costs of road projects, and should it become the standard?

HUFFMAN: No, townships already share the cost of road projects, problem is they are not being equally funded at the state and federal level. Ninety-two percent of road maintenance falls on counties, cities and villages, while 8 percent falls on the state. Federal funding gives the state 75 percent while only giving 25 percent to the county. I think the taxpayers can clearly see that the county has greater responsibility than the state but receive lesser funds.

MATUREN: This is a complex issue. For several reasons, state revenue sharing with local governments has declined over recent years and is not likely to increase in the foreseeable future. Due to county road funding shortfalls, in order to maintain local roads, townships have begun assisting counties with funds. Ideally, funding would remain counties’ obligation, as townships have other, competing financial responsibilities. If townships continue to assist, they should have a say in road projects.

Recently, during a debate over abortion legislation, a female member of the Michigan House of Representatives was banned from speaking on the House floor. What would you have done if you were in office? Do you believe the move was fair? Would you have raised a complaint?

HUFFMAN: Legislators have a responsibility to their constituents. This was clearly unfair; I would have demanded that the First Amendment of the Constitution be upheld. By silencing Lisa Brown and Barb Bryum, Speaker of the House, Jase Bolger, also took away the people’s "freedom of speech.” I would also have filed a motion to have Jase Bolger removed as Speaker of the House for violating the Constitution.

MATUREN: Banning an elected representative from speaking on behalf of her constituents was not only unfair, it was illegal as a violation of the First Amendment.  This type of ban would be illegal and wrong regardless of the alignment of the political parties or the underlying issue. If any legislator, Democrat or Republican, was unconstitutionally banned from speaking during my tenure, I would protest, as our incumbent representative should have done.

What is your greatest strength and how will it be useful in serving your constituents?

HUFFMAN: Aggressiveness and persistence, I will never give up or quit fighting for the people.

MATUREN: As an attorney, I can understand proposed laws not only in terms of their content, but also in terms of their negative or unintended consequences and how they fit or don't fit within the existing legal framework. I can look at and understand multiple sides of an issue. I can connect with the people of our district who will be affected by proposed legislation. I care about our citizens' needs and concerns.

What is the No. 1 issue facing residents of the 102nd district? How will you make sure their voice is heard regarding that issue in the Michigan House of Representatives?

HUFFMAN: I feel the biggest issue facing the 102nd (district) and Michigan and holding both back is the legislators inability to meet on common ground for the common good to benefit the people of Michigan. Your voice in the 102nd (district) will be heard loud and clear because I will do the job that I am elected to do.

MATUREN: Our rural economy is the number one issue facing our district. As representative, I will fight to help our residents start and grow local businesses by working to make small business loans more readily available and by supporting sensible, considered deregulation and fair tax reform. Our children deserve schools and opportunities as good as those in urban areas; I will fight for fair and adequate funding for their future and our communities' future.