Lapeer County Tea Party

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STATING THEIR CASE - (From the 10-4-2015 Lapeer County Press)

Forum before packed house at Sportsmen’s Club gives voters insight into candidates’ views, aspirations

 Candidates for the 82nd House seat that was vacated when Todd Courser, standing, resigned, answered a barrage of questions from the moderator, Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka, covering topics such as gun control, roads, and legalizing marijuana. Photo by Jeff Hogan

Candidates for the 82nd House seat that was vacated when Todd Courser, standing, resigned, answered a barrage of questions from the moderator, Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka, covering topics such as gun control, roads, and legalizing marijuana.Photo by Jeff HoganARCADIA TWP. — Lined up on the firing line at the Lapeer County Sportsmen’s Club, 12 of 14 filed candidates running in the Nov. 3 primary election Friday evening introduced themselves to the public and fielded questions from a standing-room only crowd of nearly 300 people.

The Lapeer County Tea Party-sponsored event was the first public opportunity for local residents to see and hear from the largest pool of primary candidates in Michigan history at the county level since they filed their intentions to run Sept. 18.

Todd Courser, who resigned from the 82nd House District seat on Sept. 11, minutes before the House was ready to expel him from office, was among the GOP candidates at the front table.

On hand for the forum were Republican candidates Russell Adams, Courser, Jake Davison, James DeWilde, Rick Guerrero Jr., Gary Howell, Ian Kempf, Allan Landosky, Jan Peabody, Sharna Cramer Smith and Chris Tuski. Democrat Margaret Guerrero DeLuca was there, but her two party challengers Eric Johnson of Lapeer and R.D. Bohm of Dryden were no shows.

With the rest of the candidates already seated for the 7 p.m. start, Courser was the last to arrive — entering two minutes after the event was scheduled to begin, walking slowly along an interior wall for all to see of his entry.

In an opening statement Courser admitted the purpose of the meeting and the large turnout of both candidates and public on a Friday night was “obviously a referendum on me.”

Seated in alphabetical order, the candidates began the forum with a two-minute introduction followed by nearly three hours of responses to questions supplied by those in attendance who wrote out their questions beforehand on index cards. Chief Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka served as moderator for the evening.

Standing by to maintain order were at least four uniformed Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. deputies and several plainclothes deputies were in the room.

The audience, however, was well behaved and followed instructions to refrain from applause or outbursts and allowed the question and answer format to go off smoothly.

The questions ranged in subject from proposals by the candidates to find a funding solution to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads, to whether they supported decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana, to the candidate’s view about what should be done to deal with gun violence.

Courser said gun-free zones are the problem, that if more people were allowed to carry guns in currently prohibited locations like schools and movie theaters there would be fewer mass shootings like the one that claimed nine lives at a community college in rural Oregon on Thursday.

“The constitution is the right to carry and there should be an end to handgun regulations,” said Courser.

The rest of the Republican field said there are already enough laws to regulate guns in America.

Guerrero DeLuca, a substitute teacher who has been in every school building in the county, was against the idea of allowing guns into school buildings.

On the question of legalized recreational marijuana use, Republican Davis was “100 percent in favor of legalized marijuana” as long as it’s heavily regulated.

Courser answered, “You have to decide. As a fiscal conservative it’s about the money. It’s not my business to stand in the way of what is a personal decision… From my perspective, there is a huge cost to imprison people that have used or possessed marijuana.”

While the room was polite, every time Courser spoke there was a low murmur as people whispered amongst themselves as the embattled former state lawmaker spoke to probably the largest public audience in Lapeer Countysince he was elected and his subsequent resignation.

While not mentioning him by name, many candidates when asked how they would keep in contact with constituents made references to returning phone calls, to holding local meetings to hear diverse opinions and to being visible in the community — all complaints that have been said of Courser after he was elected.

The forum wrapped up at 10 p.m., minutes before our print deadline. See our Wednesday edition, for additional reporting of the candidates responses, additional photos of the event, as well as comments for citizens in attendance at the forum.

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