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Primary Elections 2022: Four candidates square off in a newly-drawn 47th State House District

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Allie Osmar Siarto
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Michigan State Capitol

As a result of redistricting in Michigan, there’s a newly created 47th State House seat. It adds more of a mix of urban and rural areas, stretching from Ann Arbor to Jackson County. We a look at the candidates in the contested Democratic and Republican primary races.

On the Democratic ticket are two new entries to the political scene, but not new to actively seeking to help others.

40-year-old Carrie Rheingans is an Ann Arbor resident. She teaches social work at the University of Michigan, and she is a policy expert on health equity and Medicaid for those with substance abuse issues.

43-year-old James Johnson Jr. hails from Clark Lake in Jackson County. He found his way to the race through a blue-collar journey, starting as an electrical apprentice, moving on to become a journeyman and foreman and, eventually, an organizing agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Rheingans has also worked as an HIV and AIDS advocate and helped with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in Washtenaw County. She says it's equity in health care that led her to run, so she can forge policy at the state level.

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Center for Health and Research Transformation
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chrt.org
Carrie Rheingans
"I've seen systems, especially health systems, many systems like the childcare system, education, other systems that really haven't been working for working families like mine. And even my mom, who had multiple mental health and substance use disorders and was on Medicaid and Medicare, she ended up dying from those health conditions because she couldn't get the services she needed."

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Marry Me Photography, LLC
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James Johnson Jr.

For Johnson, it is his commitment to workers' rights and his life experiences that drove him to run.

"I believe I have a rare perspective for the legislator. I was born in a public housing. I'm a person of color in the construction industry. I'm an organizer. I talk to working people every day. And I know their struggles well. I am working people. I help people reach the middle class."

What happens if they win the election? Rheingans says her priorities would center on issues pertinent to her life: affordable housing, education, childcare funding, student loans, and health policy. She says her top priority, if elected, would take on different forms, depending upon which party is in control at the time.

"If we have unified Democratic control, I would build on my health policy expertise and push for a single-payer health care system in Michigan. If we do not have unified control in Lansing, then there are many things that we can do to address gun violence, which is a huge health issue in our state. More than half of gun-related deaths are suicides."

Johnson says he'll be an advocate for voting rights and a transition to more renewable energy. But his work on a number of commissions in the areas of housing, workers' rights, and human rights will guide his agenda in Lansing.

"I believe it's my background in labor. The number of issues that people in labor face that have not been addressed, like living wage, repealing right to work, and just living wage jobs, health care, pensions. These are all things that I believe all people need and want, and I don't think they're being addressed like they should."

On the GOP side of the ledger, Teresa Spiegelberg of Freedom Township is running against Tina Bednarski-Lynch of Grass Lake in Jackson County. Spiegelberg is a 58-year-old EMG technologist. She says she has lived in rural areas of Washtenaw County her whole life and that has shaped her perspective on priorities in the race.

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The Manchester Mirror
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Teresa Spiegelberg
"When I was a kid, a lot of our small villages, towns or everyone's homes have way more than we have now. And I just would like to see not just the cities get bigger, but I would like to see the villages to be able to maintain and be self-sufficient and still keep their sort of rural alert."

When asked about social and environmental issues, Spiegelberg takes moderate stances on issues, such as civil rights, reproductive rights, gun control, education, and renewable energy. She sees the need to represent the entire 47th District, but she feels the disparity in outlying townships need to be addressed to return to growth in rural areas. As such, her immediate priorities would be to focus on issues, such as roads, drainage, opposition to solar farms and gravel pits, and attention to farmers' needs.

"Some of the farmers are talking about having a hard time with some of the sort of overregulation and stuff that they're getting, taking a look at those things and see what we can do to make it a little bit easier on our farmer. We need those guys here. If all of the farmers go away, we're all in trouble, to be honest."

Tina Bednarski-Lynch did not respond to WEMU's multiple requests for an interview. She also failed to respond to a candidate survey put forth by the League of Women Voters in Washtenaw County. She is a Grass Lake Township trustee, and her website indicates she is an infection control and quality nurse on that site. Bednarski-Lynch takes conservative stances on reproductive rights, the Second Amendment, and believes government should create a more conducive environment for business growth.

The winners of the August 2nd party primary races will advance to the November general election ballot to determine the representative from the newly redrawn 47th state House district.

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Cathy Shafran is WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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