By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Incumbent Abdullah Hammoud, the current Democratic state representative for the 15th District, will face Republican candidate Carla O’Neill and Working Class Party candidate Larry Betts in the Nov. 3 general election.
Hammoud, 30, also serves on the Appropriations Committee and three Appropriations subcommittees: Judiciary, Licensing and Regulatory Affairs; the Department of Insurance Financial Services; and Health and Human Services, where he is the democratic lead.
Betts, 56, is on Social Security disability for injuries he suffered at work. He began working at the age of 16 including jobs of janitor and maintenance worker, manager at a gas station-repair facility, a security guard and a newspaper deliverer.
Voters will decide who will win the two-year term in the state Legislature. The district includes most of the city of Dearborn.
All candidates were asked to respond to questions with responses limited to a 120-word count for each. All responses exceeding that limit were edited. O’Neill did not respond by press time.
Question 1: List your education, experience or skills you posses that make you a qualified candidate.
Betts: People like you and me are the ones who worked our whole lives and built this country. We are essential. We should speak for ourselves. I know what it means to struggle just to keep my head above water. Like others, I had to struggle to get an education. I had to drop out to work to support my mother, then went back 15 years later to get my GED, then took classes online from University of Phoenix and Ashford University. I did it because I wanted education.
Hammoud: I earned my bachelor’s in science from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and both a master’s in public health and business administration from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. After working for three years as a healthcare consultant at the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, I felt a profound need to utilize my skills and knowledge to volunteer with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency in Jordan. During my time there, I led a successful initiative to promote health and wellness among diabetic refugees throughout the Middle East. I believe the challenges and successes of my background have prepared me to lead our community as your representative.
Question 2: If (re)elected, what are three issues facing your constituents would you work to address and how?
Betts: Our health care isn’t good enough, schools aren’t good enough and not enough people have good paying jobs. Those problems can be solved – with money. There is money. Workers pay high taxes, but that money didn’t go to prevent the virus, it doesn’t go to schools and roads and other needs like it should. Make the wealthy pay tax like we do, make the corporations pay tax instead of buying up other companies and closing them. One person alone, a few people won’t change this, but one person can encourage others to fight for what we need. That’s what I will do.
Hammoud: Environmental justice, health care, and support for small businesses are three of the many issues I seek to address. As the policy and messaging chair for the House Democrats, I coordinated numerous rollouts of bill packages which tackled several critical topics. I have fought specifically to protect the safety of our air and water for Michigan residents, lower out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs and primary care visits, and provide essential support for small businesses throughout this pandemic. Utilizing meaningful connections with legislators, stakeholders, the media, and the current administration, I will continue to navigate the legislative process utilizing the skills that I have accumulated. I will continue to bring attention to these much-needed issues and gain traction on their reform.
Question 3: Why are you seeking re(election) Why should people vote for you?
Betts: I know what working people go through, I know the problems, I run for election to let working people’s voice be heard. I want to say as loud as I can that we have to get together to fight for what we need.
Hammoud: I love advocating for and representing the people of my hometown of Dearborn, as well as the state of Michigan. I relish the opportunity to continue pressing for much needed reforms through fresh ideas, legislation on policy issues I have already introduced, and continuing the millions of dollars in budget wins I have secured for Dearborn. I have demonstrated the ability to bring people together on common interests, which has been key to successfully operating in a bi-partisan fashion that delivers positive outcomes for Michigan. I am not done fighting for the people of Dearborn, and I am excited to demonstrate how much more I have to offer for the people of the 15th House District.
For more information on the election or candidates go to www.lwvddh.org or www.vote411.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])