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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Matt Nilson Seeks Republican Nomination In 66th State House District


The 66th state House District will have a new Representative next year. Republican Matt Nilson hopes he is the one taking the oath of office. 

The district includes Van Buren and northwest Kalamazoo County. The seat is open this year because Aric Nesbitt can't run again due to term limits. Nilson is from Hartford and graduated Hartford High School in 1989. He went on to West Point, then Served 20 years in army, and retired as a Lt. Colonel. Nilson is one three Republicans seeking his party’s nomination in the August primary.

Asked why he’s running for state House, Nilson says he wants to focus on roads and infrastructure. He says the state should create a department of infrastructure. Nilson says that would bring departments like transportation and energy under one umbrella.

The State Veterans Home in Grand Rapids is the subject of a state investigation. Democrats and unions say quality of care diminished when service at the home was privatized. Nilson says privatizing services has to done with care. An example he cites is charter schools. Nilson says the state board of education should have a much larger role in monitoring charter schools.

Nilson wants to develop an app that would report infrastructure needs such as potholes Asked about funding, Nilson says he would take some money from the Pure Michigan ad campaign. Nilson says he doesn’t believe the campaign is as effective as state officials claim.

Nilson says the state’s medical marijuana should be distributed through a pharmacy system. Asked about complications from the federal laws that still make pot illegal, Nilson says federal law is being ignored in Colorado and Washington which have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

While he says there should be some smart limitations on guns, Nilson says he doesn’t think Michigan needs too many new laws. Nilson describes himself as pro second amendment.

“We can’t stop everything, so we have to empower people to protect themselves.”

Asked about the state taking away the straight ticket choice on the November ballot, Nilson says people should have options. He says it’s one of a few issues where he breaks with Republicans. Nilson says charter school reform is another one.

Nilson says he would have voted against the bill that prohibited local officials from discussing ballot issues in the weeks leading up to an election. He says misinformation is very dangerous. Nilson says prohibiting local officials from discussing ballot issues was a way of withholding information from the public.

Asked if Donald Trump can be a good President, Nilson says he doesn’t know. Nilson says he voted for John Kasich in the primary in Michigan. Nilson says he’s concerned with the way Trump talks to people and his stance on issues like immigration.

Other issues can be heard in the longer version of the interview: 

Interview with Matt Nilson

More on Education

Nilson says private schools should be reimbursed by the state if they are required to do something. He says either take the requirement away, or help them pay for it. Fewer students in Michigan could eventually mean fewer school districts, according to Nilson. He says closing schools has to be considered. But Nilson acknowledges it won’t be popular, and he says the state needs to be careful about creating “educational deserts.”


State lawmakers are debating a new energy policy for Michigan. Nilson says the state should mandate a certain percentage of renewable energy. He says 10-15% is probably about right. Nilson says he questions allowing additional competition in the energy market because of the money that major utilities have invested in the distribution network.

LGBT Discrimination

Nilson says he’s undecided about adding protection against discrimination for LGBT people to the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. He says his major concern is that a business that can’t afford to add a gender-neutral bathroom could be facing a lawsuit.

Term Limits and Campaign Finance

On term limits, Nilson would like to see some reform. He says while it gives people opportunities, expertise is lost. Nilson says he would like to keep limits, but make them longer. Nilson says spending caps are needed on political campaigns. While he says his campaign is inexpensive, Nilson says too much is being spent on many races. He says improving disclosure is not enough, because there are ways around disclosing donors. But Nilson acknowledges spending caps are not likely to happen.

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