By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The Aug. 7 primary election will narrow the field of candidates running for state senator in Michigan’s third district that covers Dearborn, Detroit and part of Melvindale.
Current state Sen. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit) was not able to run in the election due to term limits.
Democratic candidates Anita Belle, Terry Burrell, state Rep. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) and Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak face each other for the four-year term. Republican Kathy Stecker is unopposed on the primary ballot.
Contesting candidates were contacted and asked to answer questions about why they are interested in the seat. Each of the following questions had a 100-word limit.
Santana did not respond to questions by deadline.
Question 1: Why are you running for State Senate?
Belle: I am running for State Senate in District 3 because: Those in the education field need to be paid more; to hold charter schools, particularly charter high schools, to standards that would force them to better prepare students for college or life as opposed to running schools like a business in which children are treated as a profit center; to change Michigan’s voting laws for greater protection from election rigging, and to advance racial reconciliation through reparations for people of African and indigenous descent.
Burrell: I am hoping to reform our criminal law system.
Woronchak: I am running because I have the experience and proven leadership to have a positive impact on public policy debates to find solutions on challenges like roads, schools and the high cost of auto insurance.
Question 2: What skills, education or experience do you possess that make you a qualified candidate for the position you are running for?
Belle: My education includes graduating from Henry Ford High School, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a law degree. I am a community activist, serving as president of the Reparations Labor Union, the female co-chair of the Detroit Chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, and a member of N’COBRA’s national board of directors. I have been an election challenger with the Voter Justice Committee, a group that has uncovered that more than 1,000 people are registered to vote using addresses that are vacant lots owned by the Detroit Land Bank, and that ballot stuffing/vote dilution/election rigging occurs in Detroit because thousands more ballots are cast in Detroit elections than there were voters.
Burrell: I have a liberal arts degree from Henry Ford College, and I have a major in political science and a minor in communication out of Eastern Michigan University. I have worked for a couple of mayors and I was on my student government at the University of Michigan Dearborn.
Woronchak: Serving six years as a state representative makes me the most experienced person in the race with the legislative process in Lansing. Serving as a county commissioner for 14 years, including eight years being elected chairman by my fellow commissioners, has given me experience being a leader in building consensus and resolving serious challenges. Also, many years as a journalist have given me experience in communication, which is important in serving constituents.
Question 3: What is the one most important issue facing your district and what will you do in your position if (re)elected to solve it?
Belle: I agree that we must fix the “damn” roads, including fixing the water pipes under the roads to stop flooding, but we also must fix the “damn” elections. If America ran a banking system the same way that we allow the bedrock of our democracy, our elections to be run, the nation would be bankrupt. When elected, I propose solving the problem by having automatic audits when the number of ballots does not match the number of voters in the poll books, the number of voters in the voter histories, the number of ballots, and the number of ballot stubs.
It is unfortunate that Michigan recently purchased voting machines that do not give voters a receipt detailing which candidates and issues their ballot was cast for, so in the alternative, I would sponsor legislation allowing voters to take selfies and post their ballots without fear of invalidating their ballots yet providing protection against retaliation for breaching the secrecy of their ballot in order to advance the transparency and validity of election results.
Burrell: It’s really not too much to do in the community because everything is stable throughout our community. The mayor does a great job for the city of Dearborn. However, I think that people living in this community need someone that is going to be there for them when something in the district happens. I feel that I am the one to solve it. But would like to see most of the people educated here in our community, so that they can live out their dreams, and get involved with the community.
Woronchak: The most immediate concern is a toss-up between roads and no-fault insurance reform, both of which cost residents lots of money. I will say roads. The funding for local road repairs is determined by the state. We must invest more in our roads and bridges, learning from surrounding states that all spend more per-capita on roads. The state must also change the formula for distribution of roads revenues from the gas tax and car registration, so that southeast Michigan gets a fairer share based on roads usage.
Question 4: Why should people vote for you?
Belle: People should vote for me because Michiganders need to keep their eyes on more balls than fixing the roads and car insurance. These issues are causing pain, yet America is facing a crisis in race relations because, within the next 25 years, blacks and Hispanics will be the majority. One of my constituents, a white Anglo-Saxon male from Dearborn, expressed dismay in feeling like a minority in his community. America can turn into an isolated nation of protectionism that cloaks itself in minority-rule apartheid and economic monopoly, but such a future would divide rather than unify the United States.
I propose we do this in District 3 by electing me, the candidate for reparations and reconciliation. We can instead embrace our diversity and right the wrongs of our distant and recent past.
Burrell: Because I will be there for them through thick and thin.
Woronchak: I have a proven record of accomplishments, leadership and good service to constituents who contact me to solve problems. Experience matters. The state Senate is losing 26 of its 38 members because of term limits, that’s two-thirds of the Senate’s experience, gone. The Senate is not a training ground for first-term legislators looking to get ahead, it is a serious place where serious matters are debated and decided.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])