State House Primaries in Kalamazoo County

Jul 28, 2020

Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

The Primary Election on August 4 includes races in several southwest Michigan State House districts. WMUK spoke with MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Lindsay Moore about contests in the 60th and 61st districts.

The Gazette partnered with the League of Women Voters in Kalamazoo to ask candidates about themselves and their stands on a range of issues.

60th State House District

There are two candidates in the Democratic primary in the 60th District that includes the City of Kalamazoo. Both Julie Rogers and Stephanie Moore are on the Kalamazoo County Commission. Lindsay Moore at the Gazette says their positions on the issues are broadly similar. "The two issues that they share and and most passionate about are healthcare and equity."

"Julie Rogers works as a physical therapist and that, for her campaign, is really something that she feels she can speak with authority about, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic and also with bigger conversations about things like universal healthcare, that's something she really gets fired up about on the County Board."

"Similarly with Stephanie Moore, who has really championed and positioned herself as the voice of the black community in Kalamazoo. Her mother's nonprofit, which she works closely with, Mothers of Hope, deals with the emotional and physical health of black women and babies. And so, issues like infant mortality are things that Stephanie Moore brings up a lot, and again with COVID, has brought a lot of attention to racial discrimination."

But the Gazette's Lindsay Moore there are differences in approach.

"Both of them are fueled by their different backgrounds. So, if on most if not all of the answers that Stephanie gave came through an equity lens about how to make things the most equitable for everyone in Kalamazoo, whether in education or gun ownership or mail-in ballots, etc. And I'd say that Julie, on those same topics, is very precise in trying to think ahead to what she would try to draft in terms of legislation, kind of pitching ideas that way, kind of zeroing-in versus Stephanie's broad appeal of, 'This is what my platform is.'"

The Democratic primary in the 60th District does have some controversy. The new leaders of the Kalamazoo Commission have accused Rogers of "inappropriate" behavior and "micro-managing" the county's response to the COVID-19 crisis.

"So that has turned into a mess, a political mess," Lindsay Moore says. "It's just turned into some drama, to say the least, given that Julie is pretty much denying them all outright. The Board has not backed down from the claims. And then it got tied into Stephanie Moore because these two are opponents in a hotly contested race. So, Julie went after Stephanie saying that these two Board leadership members were essentially campaigning for Stephanie by doing this; they were supporting Stephanie by 'smearing' Julie."

The new Kalamazoo County Commission chair, Tracy Hall, does support Stephenie Moore. But Vice-Chair Michael Seals continues to support Rogers. Hall also launched a campaign to win the Democratic nomination in the 60th District but dropped out earlier this year. The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Republican Gary Mitchell in November. The district's current representative, Democrat John Hoadley, is running for Congress.

61st State House District

The Democratic nominee in the neighboring 61st District, Kalamazoo County Commissioner Christine Morse, does not have an opponent. But two Republicans are running for the chance to replace retiring GOP Representative Brandt Iden in the district that includes Portage. Iden can't run again because of term limits.

The Gazette's Lindsay Moore says the two contenders - Bronwyn Haltom and Tom Graham - have very different backgrounds.

"Bronwyn, although her occupation is small business owner, having a small marketing firm, her career has primarily been in politics, and outside of the state. This is kind of her homecoming as how she's campaigning, that she's from the area and this her coming home to do the work here. But she's spent quite a bit of time on the East Coast and in Washington, DC. She was a political liaison during the Trump administration's transition, where she was a liaison for the western region where she was in charge of six state and all the political affairs there. And she also helped campaign for the re-election of (U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell. So, she is definitely in that area, and it shows in her campaign finances."

"Tom Graham is an IT manager and analyst," Moore says. "And a lot of his answers to this questionnaire had to do with the trades and about finding nuance in the 'red' and 'blue' issues."

You'll find the responses all of the candidates gave to the League of Women Voters questionnaire here (60th District) and here (61st District).