As the November election draws nearer, Americans won’t be voting just for a presidential candidate, both state and national candidates will be voted upon, too. In Michigan, there will be dozens of candidates running for the first time and for reelection across the state. Between The Lines has reached out to pro-equality candidates to get a sense of their goals and priorities for the LGBTQ community if they are to be elected. To get a full list of the pro-equality candidates running, visit mivoterguide.com.
Here, 108th District House Rep. Candidate Renee Richer answers questions about why she would be a good fit for reelection. The 108th District covers the counties of Delta, Dickinson and Menominee.
Why are you running and why do you think you’re a good fit for the office?
I’m running for office because I have deep ties to this community. Our family has been on the same farm for 5 generations and we look forward to another 5 generations. It is that century-long investment that families make in this community that needs to be recognized and respected. I want to offer my professional and personal experience to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of the district who want to see results and not rhetoric. My professional record is one of results.
My goal is for efficient and effective policies that tackle the challenges we face in my district and in the State. With 30 years of scientific background and research experience, I will bring a powerful sets of tools and knowledge to Lansing tackling issues of water quality, human health and well-being, natural resource protection and the education of our young people. As a district we must use our strengths to promote economic development, looking toward the future and the long-term economic sustainability of the district.
What experience do you bring to the table that makes you stand out from the other candidates?
I grew up on my family’s farm in Gladstone and graduated from Gladstone High School at the top of my class. I was active in sports, running track and cross country, All UP Cross Country my senior year. I went on to work my way through graduate school, earning a doctorate in biology from Harvard University. It was my youth in the UP that greatly influenced my interest in biology. Throughout my career, I have studied the natural resource ecology and impacts of the environment on human health. For more than a decade I have worked on the relationship between water quality and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. We have long suffered with ineffective and expensive policies because they are based on opinion and not our current understanding. My career has been built on analyzing problems and designing solutions. It is exactly this solutions-based approach I will bring to Lansing to ensure policies that achieve the goals set out and the most effective price.
What are your priorities for your district?
COVID 19 has changed the landscape for many here in the Upper Peninsula. Our district currently has the highest infection rate in the Upper Peninsula. My first priority is to effectively manage the health priority in the district so that we can fully return to work and school safely. Our most vulnerable citizens, both young and old, are being disproportionately impacted and small businesses have borne the burden. Once we move beyond COVID my focus will be on improving educational opportunities and ensuring comprehensive education and treatment for mental health and substance abuse. This is a major issue in our district and of most concern of the voters. We simply do not have adequate preventative measures or treatment facilities leaving families vulnerable. Our district is also strongly impacted by water quality issues, given the sheer amount of freshwater coastline. Our economy and our health depends on good water quality which is currently under threat from Harmful Algal Blooms and PFAS contamination. My research work has directly addressed the routes of human exposure to neurotoxins produced by Harmful Algal Blooms (which are linked to ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases). I will be a strong voice for management design for phosphorus runoff (which produce Harmful Algal Blooms) into the lakes
What are your priorities for the state of Michigan overall?
My priorities for the State of Michigan mirror those for the district. Investment in the well-being and education of our citizens and the fundamentals of a strong economy, such as infrastructure, result in long term benefits. The health crisis as a result of COVID 19 must be properly managed in order to see a full economic recovery and future gains. My focus will be on getting Michigan back to work and back to school in a manner that is responsible and responsive to conditions. Environmental protection is important to the economic development of the State of Michigan. Our unparalleled natural resources fuel economic development throughout the State. Putting these resources at risk through mismanagement results in both economic losses and costly cleanup and remediation. A policy of pollution prevention is fiscally responsible and ensures the long-term viability of the economy.
Given your own experience as a member of the LGBTQ community, how will you support LGBTQ Michiganders?
LGBTQ Michiganders still face discrimination in many areas of life including housing and job discrimination. This type of discrimination has a real toll in regards to the health and well-being of families and individuals, even impacting suicide rates. Expanding civil rights protections and placing them into law for the LGBTQ community has impacts well beyond the individual and is also a clear sign to all of the welcoming nature of the State. As a candidate, I have received tremendous support from the community and have had the opportunity to reach out many in the LGBTQ community. However, as a candidate, it also became clear that much work remains to be done to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential and live their lives without the limitations of hate, bigotry, discrimination and discriminatory practices. I intend to be a voice for those whose voices are not being heard.