Candidates square off for 22nd District state House seat

By: Brendan Losinski, Brian Louwers | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 17, 2020

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ROSEVILLE/WARREN — Five candidates will be competing on Tuesday, Aug. 4, in the primary for the 22nd District state House seat currently held by Democrat John Chirkun, who has reached the end of his maximum limit of three terms.

The Democrat with the most votes in the primary and the Republican with the most votes in the primary will face off on Tuesday, Nov. 3, to decide who will take the seat in the Michigan House of Representatives.

The position carries a two-year term to represent the city of Roseville and part of the city of Warren.

There are three candidates running on the Democratic side of the primary ballot: Michael James Anderson, Ryan Nelson and Richard M. Steenland.

Anderson attended classes at Macomb Community College and Alma College before graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a degree in art in history. He moved to Roseville in 2018 and was elected to the Roseville Community Schools Board of Education. He also said he is currently working on a master’s degree in employment and labor relations from Wayne State University.

“I wanted to run for a combination of things,” Anderson said. “When I was working at a Sears store in Waterford, there were a couple of issues where myself and some coworkers were not being paid what we were supposed to be paid. They were taking money out for breaks we were not taking despite it not saying anything in our contract about that. That made me want to get more involved in workplace policy. When I was vocal in the school board over there, several parents asked me to run for the board, but I was already moving to Roseville, so I ran here after I moved.”

If elected, Anderson said, he would like to ensure local schools are supported and workers’ rights are protected.

“The biggest thing I would want to focus on is having adequate and stable funding for our schools. Right now, we are fairly low on that funding. We still haven’t made up for inflation during the last 12 years. … I also would want to try to overhaul our labor laws so unions are easier to form and they are better funded and better able to deal with workplace abuses.”

Nelson graduated as a pre-med minor/mechanical engineering major from the University of Michigan in 2000. He moved to Washington, D.C., and said he worked for a congressional office on Capitol Hill for three years. Returning home to Michigan, he managed a state Senate campaign and was one of the cofounders of the employment services company Hiresite, which he has worked at for the last 13 years. He previously ran for the state representative seat in 2010.

Nelson said he was inspired to run after his time working as a canvasser and training other canvassers at Working America/AFL-CIO in Center Line.

“Last summer, I heard a lot of what I still hear in every conversation even now: that they didn’t know their State Representative, that they didn’t feel like their voice or their vote mattered, and that they were thankful that I was there and was really listening,” he wrote in an email. “I’m running because those sentiments need not be. I’m running because I know how campaigns work, I know how Lansing works, and I know how important good, compassionate, transparent governance is, especially now. I’m running because I’ve spoken with over a thousand families on their front porches, and over a thousand more on the phone over this difficult winter and spring, and I’ve promised each of them that I will always answer when they call, and I will always listen, because they know what they need better than anyone in Lansing.”

Nelson discussed his focus for the 22nd District.

“My focus next year, whether we are finally in the majority again or not, will be to ensure that all the pandemic recovery policies we’ll be writing will prioritize health, safety, and economic security for all Michiganders,” wrote Nelson. “I’ll also fight for funding increases for all the schools I will represent in the 22nd District, including Macomb Community College, while working with educators and administrators at every level here to craft policy and develop programs with one goal: to ensure that every child in Michigan has access to a world class education regardless of where they live, where they came from, or their family’s financial situation. Finally, I’ll work hard every day to safeguard pensions, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for our extraordinary retirees and seniors.”

Steenland has been a resident of Roseville his entire life. He attended Macomb Community College and Oakland University, majoring in human resources. He sat on the Roseville City Council from 1993 to 2007 and has served as the Roseville City Clerk ever since.

“Having spent several years on the Roseville City Council and as city clerk, I think I could take that experience and transfer it to this seat,” Steenland said. “When you get to the state level, you are running as a member of a party, but in my previous position, I was working with people on both sides of the aisle, so I hope to bring that attitude to the position.”

Steenland said, if elected, he would like to focus on the needs of working class people and finding new ways to increase government revenue.

“We need to invest in public education for residents to succeed in the modern workplace,” he said. “We need to address the COVID crisis. I want to restore collective bargaining rights and eliminate Right to Work as a priority, keeping the community safe by making sure we have adequate funding to protect citizens, particularly our senior citizens. I want to help lower the cost of prescription drugs. If you look at your tax return, we keep going back to people for millages, and we need to find new ways to attract businesses and raise money within the community besides taxes.”

Two candidates have filed to run in the Republican primary for the 22nd District: Jeff Bonnell and Steven G. Warner.

Bonnell, of Roseville, defeated Republican Art Blundell in the 2014 primary for the seat but later lost to Chirkun. In 2016, Bonnell ran unopposed in the Republican primary but again lost to Chirkun the following November. Bonnell did not run for the seat in 2018, when Blundell ran unopposed and lost to Chirkun. Bonnell instead ran for the 9th District seat in the Michigan Senate, defeating fellow Republican Fred Kuplicki in the primary before falling to Democrat Paul Wojno in November.

“I know what it’s like to live in Macomb County,” Bonnell said. “I kind of know what it’s like to live here and what the people need and want. The reason I’m running is because I don’t think our Democratic representatives are giving us that. I don’t think our Democratic governor is giving us that.”

Bonnell, a lifelong Macomb County resident who medically retired from the U.S. military after 24 years of service, said he would put people before the party.

“I don’t want to be a politician. I want to be a representative,” Bonnell said.

He added, “I don’t care what the Republicans tell me. I don’t care what the Democrats tell me. If it’s right for the people, I’ll vote for it. If it’s wrong, I won’t. I just want to do my job and go home. I don’t want to make a career out of it. I just want to do my duty, get relieved and go home.”

Warner, of Warren, was previously elected to three four-year terms on the Warren City Council from 2007 to 2019. He has associate of applied science degrees in marketing and management from Macomb Community College and works as a production associate for Becker Orthopedic.

“I basically just want to carry it on to the next level,” Warner said. “It’s an open seat, so maybe a change of venue on my part and a change of direction on the part of the electors might do some good.

“We had a Republican governor for eight years. Now that we have a Democratic governor, maybe it’s time for a Republican to hold this seat and see what can be done,” Warner said.

It would be Warner’s first time running as a Republican after three nonpartisan campaigns for City Council.

“At this junction in my political career, my nonpartisan days are over,” Warner said. “I don’t like the things that have been going on with the Democratic Party. I felt it would be more in the best interests of myself and the people I represent, running on a Republican platform.”

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