Monday, November 03, 2014

Congressman Gary Peters, candidate for U.S. Senate, visits Houghton

By Michele Bourdieu

Congressman Gary Peters, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held for 36 years by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), chats with Houghton County Democrats during an informal "meet and greet" event on Oct. 18, 2014, at the Super 8 Motel in Houghton. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, now a candidate for the Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), fielded questions on the Affordable Health Care Act, climate change, Upper Peninsula electrical power issues, U.S. involvement in the Middle East, military spending and more during an informal "meet and greet" visit to Houghton County Democrats on Oct. 18, 2014.

Scott Dianda, Michigan 110th District state representative, welcomed Peters and introduced him as a colleague, a friend and a person who cares about Michigan:

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), speaks to a group of Houghton County Democrats about his visits to the Upper Peninsula and his campaign. He is introduced by State Rep. Scott Dianda, at right. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

After talking briefly about his positive experiences visiting the U.P., in both winter and summer, Peters talked about his campaign, plans to honor Sen. Levin for his 36-years of service in the Senate and his present lead over Republican opponent Terri Lynn Land, former Michigan Secretary of State.

Describing "meet and greet" as "sort of a laid-back discussion with friends," Peters welcomed questions from the audience.

Gary Peters, Michigan Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, fields questions from the audience during the Oct. 18 "meet and greet" event with Houghton County Democrats.

He expressed his agreement with the opinion that the Affordable Care Act needs to be presented in a more positive light and facts about it contrasted with negative ads.

"I did vote for the Affordable Care Act, and I'm proud of it," Peters said. "It's my basic core belief ... that everybody in this country -- no matter who you are, no matter where you live -- should have access to affordable health care."

Peters noted 270,000 families signed up for the insurance exchange in Michigan. Adding that to the Medicaid expansion in Michigan, a total of 600,000 families, formerly without insurance, now have health insurance, even though, he acknowledged, it's not a perfect law. Peters said he is also working on legislation to help small business owners provide health care for themselves and their employees.

Brian Hoduski, Houghton County Democratic Party co-chair, brought up the subject of the minimum wage. He noted he read recently that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would actually save the federal government $7.7 billion in aid given to people in need.

"I'm a strong supporter -- we have to raise the minimum wage in my mind to $10.10," Peters agreed. "If someone is working hard, playing by the rules, you should at least be able to make money to at least pay your basic bills."

Peters said he would continue to keep pushing for that increase, noting his opponent does not seem to realize how important it is.

Keweenaw Now's Allan Baker asked a question on climate change:

During the Oct. 18 informal discussion with Houghton County Democrats, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, candidate for U.S. Senate, answers a question on climate change, noting the importance of renewable energy in Michigan.

Peters said he believes what is good for the environment is also good for the economy. He gave examples of the growth of solar energy in Michigan. He also commented on Michigan's agricultural assets and great water supply -- both of which are at risk if we do nothing about climate change.

In a brief interview with Keweenaw Now, Peters said he was aware of the Enbridge pipelines near the Mackinac Bridge and the devastation caused by that company's Kalamazoo oil spill.

"We have to be very concerned about the pipelines," Peters said. "The particular danger of Canadian tar sands oil is that, unlike regular oil that floats on the top of the surface of water, it's so heavy that it actually sinks -- so it is particularly problematic to clean up if you have an oil break or a break of the pipeline."
Peters added, "We need to be sure that we are aggressively working with the company to make sure that pipeline (under the Straits of Mackinac) is as safe as it can possibly be."

Peters noted that Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor opposing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in this election, is very engaged in that issue.

Asked about the recent mining projects in the U.P., Peters said he was not aware of those issues since he presently does not represent the U.P., but when he is elected Senator he will be coming up here to meet with residents and environmental groups "to be sure as those projects go forward that they're done in a way that doesn't endanger the environment."

Two Great Lakes issues that have concerned him are the Asian Carp issue and the Great Lakes Restoration funding.

Janet (Niemi) Burkholder of Bootjack asked Peters about his views on fracking and federal clean air and water laws:

Gary Peters answers a question on environmental regulation of new industries like fracking, noting legislation he is working on to include fracking in the Clean Water Act and the Clean Drinking Water Act.

After a question from Barry Solomon, Michigan Tech professor of geography and environmental policy, on the failing Presque Isle power plant in Marquette, State Rep. Scott Dianda joined in the discussion on renewable energy, noting his work on the power issue and his interest in biofuels and recycling. Peters said he was following the issue and will be actively engaged, along with Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, in finding a solution.

Vietnam veteran Phil Faucher asked Peters about his views on our military involvement in the Middle East:

Gary Peters comments on U.S. involvement in the Middle East, support of veterans and limits on military spending.

Frequent applause in response to Peters' statements of his views seemed to indicate most of the Democrats present were supportive of the candidate.

Rick Kasprzak, Houghton County Democratic Party (HCDP) co-chair and candidate for Houghton County Commissioner, said he thought Peters was well spoken and seemed informed on the issues.

"His ideas were well thought out," Kasprzak said. "I think he actually showed his position on the Middle East. It just showed how very complicated that issue is. Because of past actions we are now in a position where we don't have any good options. We're deciding between the lesser of two evil options. From what I heard tonight he's the kind of guy that can steer the ship through the rough waters."

Tammy Hoduski of Houghton, a teacher at Houghton Middle School, was impressed by Peters.

"I think he's great," she said. "He's honest. I felt like I could trust him to represent us in a fair way. I liked that he talked about raising the minimum wage. I think that's smart."

Janet Gregorich, Houghton County Democratic Party vice chair, said she liked the fact that Peters voted for the Affordable Care Act.

"I think it's very needed in our country so that people are insured," she said.

Brian Hoduski, HCDP co-chair, commented to Keweenaw Now, "Nobody can replace Senator Levin, but Gary can make a good crack at it."

John Slivon, Hancock city councilman, was a bit skeptical on at least two issues discussed at the meeting.

"I don't think he's well enough informed about the negative aspects of fracking to be able to make an informed decision about it," Slivon said. "I don't agree that we should be bombing in the Middle East. Period."

To learn more about Gary Peters, visit his Web site.

You can also compare Peters' answers to questions from the Michigan League of Women Voters with those of other candidates by consulting the League of Women Voters 2014 Nonpartisan Voter Guide.

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