2022 Primary Election Preview: 36th District State House GOP Primary Q+A
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY — One of the most hotly contested races in the 2022 election cycle in the local area is the race for the Republican nomination for state representative in the Michigan House of Representatives.
Following redistricting after the 2020 census, St. Joseph County resides in the new 36th House District, which covers all of St. Joseph County and the eastern portion of Cass County.
Four Republican candidates are vying to be the party’s nominee for the seat in the Aug. 2 primary election. The candidates are incumbent State Rep. Steve Carra, Navy veteran and St. Joseph County Road Commissioner Jack Coleman, businessman Scott McGraw, and pastor Jerry Solis. The winner will face a possible Democratic candidate in November.
The Commercial-News recently asked each of the candidates to answer several questions about their candidacy, their views on certain local and state issues, and why the citizens of St. Joseph County and Cass County should vote for them in the primary. Their written responses are contained in this article in alphabetical order by the candidates’ last names, to better inform the citizens of the county who each of them are.
Some of the following responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
1. Why did you decide to run for the State House?
Steve Carra: When I was in high school, I told myself whatever I did with my life, I wanted to do something where if I had not done it, nobody else would have. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but in college I began learning about and understanding how much corruption there was in government and how most politicians are happy to simply go along to get along with the special interest groups. It was at that time that I knew I needed to devote my life to exposing the tragic and repulsive reality of politics as usual.
Jack Coleman: I served 20 years in the Navy, retired as a Chief Air Traffic Controller. I have served on the Park Township Planning Commission and I currently serve as a St. Joseph County Road Commissioner and Park Township Board of Review member. I have also held private sector employment including a pilot and flight instructor. I volunteer for many organizations and my experience offers knowledge in operating budgets, coordinating with various government agencies and I am extremely aware of government operations and the pitfalls that can and will arise. We need someone that understands the needs of our district and has common-sense and the ability to represent us respectfully with honor.
Scott McGraw: We need leaders in our state government who will stand firm and maintain conservative values for our communities. As a small business owner, I have experienced firsthand the struggles of government overreach. The state government’s reaction to COVID was a total over-reach and infringed upon our Constitutional rights. I will work to make sure this does not happen again. It’s time to fight for freedom in Southwest Michigan!
Jerry Solis: I decided to run because I felt that we were not as a District being represented. I don’t feel that our representatives have been taking our voice to the capital, but they’ve been taking the capital‘s voice to us. And because we did not have a local individual that’s from our district representing our district.
2. Have you ever held public office before? If so, where? If not, why make this your first elected seat?
Carra: Prior to being a state representative, I was a legislative aide for State Representative Steve Johnson. I told him in our first staff meeting that besides my day to day job, I felt it was my job to hold him true to his values, not mine. This gave me experience observing the corruption in Lansing. I was elected to the State House in the 2020 election and it has been an honor serving St. Joseph and Cass Counties as your proven conservative fighter.
Coleman: I hold many positions in our county and township. Relationships are important even in government. I have established relationships with many people from the federal level down to the township level. It is important to know how to work with people. As a leader working with a wide diverse organization of people, I know how to effectively communicate and forge relationships to accomplish mission goals. I am running for State Representative because I understand how to be effective, and at this time, State Representative is the position where I can have the best chances of success in accomplishing the improvements we need in our district and state.
McGraw: I have served four years at the county commission level and spent four terms over the past ten years as chair at the county Republican Party. Currently, I am chairman of the district Republican Party. I have held many other offices within the party, including district secretary, district vice chair, member of the state committee and others.
Solis: I have never held a public office. I saw a void that existed concerning the seat. Not only did I feel called and obligated to step up but numerous others independent of themselves asked me to run for this position.
3. What is the one major issue you’re running on, and why is it important to you?
Carra: I, like so many of you, have grown sick and tired of establishment politicians masquerading as our allies, but then voting for corporate handouts and policies that benefit the special interest groups. We do not need any more go along to get along politicians, we need real people offering real solutions to the problems our state is currently facing and that is what I will continue to do in the State House.
Coleman: There are many issues but most of them come down to proper money management and common-sense especially, when it comes to roads, infrastructure and schools. The way the state is managing money, not enough of it is making it to the local level where it is needed most. This is important to a healthy and prosperous district.
McGraw: I believe all life is precious. When my wife Marcia was pregnant with our third child Sarah, the doctor informed us that she was “chromosomally deficient” and would be born with special needs. Our doctor encouraged us to schedule an abortion. We would not. Sarah is now 22 years old. While her life has not come without difficulties, she has brought so much joy to our family. God is the creator of all life and I believe life begins at conception. I will work to protect the lives of our unborn children.
Solis: A major issue is our schools. Our children are our country’s most valuable natural resource. Our standard of education over the years has diminished. We need to have parents involved. And we need to value parental involvement. The power of the policies within our schools needs to be given back to the parents.
4. As state rep, how would you help make sure St. Joseph County’s economy is strengthened? What policies would you like to see to help do so?
Carra: With inflation reaching record highs under President Biden and Governor Whitmer, I understand that the residents of St. Joseph County need a strong and robust economy. Instead of picking winners and losers and giving tax breaks to the politically connected, we need lower taxes across the board for all businesses. Having lived in Southwest Michigan my whole life, I would rather see all the businesses in our community get a small tax cut rather than a select few getting an unfair large tax break.
Coleman: To have a healthy economy along with agriculture we need proper roads and bridges, strong education system and access to high-speed internet. I will strive to improve on how the state manages this money. For example, St. Joseph County has 100 bridges, one of the most in the entire state. The way the state allocates funds to Road Commissions through the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), bridges are not considered. I will strive to positively influence the management of money for local roads, schools, and other items in rural districts such as ours.
We also need to improve on the housing shortage. Nation and state wide there is a housing shortage, including in our District. It costs more to build and maintain multi-family housing, such as apartments, than people can afford to rent. Additionally, there is a shortage of entry level homes for the younger people starting their careers and family. Senior citizens that are interested in downsizing have few options available. If we could have more options available to our seniors, that would increase houses available in our area, as one solution of many.
I also feel when we reach retirement age, at a minimum, property taxes should be frozen. Too many seniors are being taxed out of their homes.
McGraw: I believe in the power of small businesses. The state government keeps imposing more regulations and red tape on our small business owners. I will work to reduce these restrictions, so the people and businesses of Southwest Michigan are able to thrive and grow. By utilizing relationships with our local entities, like the Chambers of Commerce and Southwest Michigan First, we can encourage and foster businesses in our district to stay and expand here. As a border district, it is important that we make Michigan a more friendly state for business.
Solis: Having spoken to numerous business owners/farmers, we need to get rid of our income tax and deregulate. We have people in Lansing that have never sat on a tractor telling farmers how to do their job. We have people in Lansing that have never run or invested in a business, telling businesses how they need to operate. Government needs to get out of the way.
5. As state rep, how would you ensure the county gets the money it needs to fix its local and primary roads? How would you help get major state-controlled roads in the area, like Michigan Avenue and Main Street in Three Rivers, fixed?
Carra: Instead of only paying a contractor one time upfront to fix roads that fall apart in a few years and need to be redone frequently, we should have long-term contracts that pay the company year after year with agreed upon standards. This way the roads will be built to last, which is more cost effective in the long run. Additionally, I have been researching and developing a plan to replace the current grant system of road funding so that our county’s portion of money can be dedicated to the roads how our local county road commissioners see fit. The current way comes with strings attached, which mismanages the available funds we have.
Coleman: As one of your county Road Commissioners, I do understand how funding for these roads is allocated. It is something that needs to be improved upon. We need someone that understands the role of a State Representative. I will reach out to other elected people, and work with the local units of government in expressing our needs to our state government and MDOT.
McGraw: I will work hard to make sure enough money is allocated toward these areas. I feel our infrastructure is also in critical condition, especially bridges in these two counties. Working with the leadership is a key component to getting allocations to our area. I have the experience and relationships to get this work done for our district.
Solis: It was said that our current state rep voted against law-enforcement receiving a raise. It was also said that our current state rep voted against what would’ve allowed the Sturgis hospital to receive the $11 million it did receive to stay open. I would vote for our district to get funds when ever possible.
6. Ambulance service in rural communities is a hot topic in the county right now, with some communities having long wait times for service or high prices. If elected, how would you help local communities address this issue?
Carra: With the increased cost in ambulance services statewide, I would like to see a consortium of townships, cities, and local governmental subdivisions joining together to provide services for their neighboring communities.
Coleman: I have attended fire board meetings throughout the district and I have the support of many of the fire chiefs. There are many reasons for the shortage of Paramedics and EMTs. This is not a problem that a description of a solution can be accomplished in a few paragraphs. One of the major reasons, for the shortage, is the wage of these positions is not competitive enough considering the schedules, hours worked, training requirements, and difficulty.
McGraw: Ambulance services are struggling right now as most businesses and industries are dealing with staffing shortages. In St. Joseph County, they have formed a consortium of townships and villages to deal with the emergency response issues and it looks like a viable solution. From the legislative perspective, I think we need to reduce the red tape on regulations to allow these businesses the ability to perform their obligations. It is easier in the state of Michigan to become an RN than an ambulance driver. Red tape and over-regulation need to be diminished so Lansing can get out of the way of businesses so they can provide their services to our citizens.
Solis: Having spoken to the city of Three Rivers and several different fire chiefs in our district we can do a better job of pooling our resources and working together. We need to immediately do a study of what it would be like to have one central ambulance headquarters in our county. And we need a state legislator that is willing to put our district first when it comes to financial needs.
7. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade sent the issue of abortion law back to the states, there has been debate about a 1931 law in the state that bans abortion except to preserve the life of the mother. There are currently efforts to repeal the law through lawsuits as well as a petition effort to put a right to reproductive freedom in the state constitution that could be on the ballot in November. What are your thoughts on this issue and the efforts to repeal the law?
Carra: The 1931 law, specifically MCL 750.14, which is just one part of Public Act 328 of 1931, alleges to ban abortions but is in great peril due to bad court interpretations largely stemming from the fact that it only explicitly sees the mother as a victim of the abortion industry and does not show a vested interest in preserving the life of the preborn child. We need to protect the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception by opposing measures that would assert that a “right to reproductive freedom” outweighs the value of protecting the life of a preborn child. As a national leader in the pro-life movement, I filed the nation’s second largest amicus brief in support of the Dobbs v. Jackson case that took down Roe v. Wade. For this and many other reasons, I was one of six legislators in the nation to receive the Students For Life “2022 Pro-Life Champion Award.”
Coleman: I will not support any action that allows for abortion to be used as a form of birth control or allows for late term or partial birth abortion. Abortions should be a very rare occurrence such as protecting the life of the mother.
McGraw: I respect the value of human life, from conception to natural death, and will support legislation that is reflective of that. I think the Supreme Court decision was the correct interpretation of the law. The states should have the power and it should be up to the people of each state to pass the laws that oversee this. If Michigan passes a constitutional amendment to allow abortion, then it will become the law. Until then, however, the practice of abortion should not be allowed and I will fight to uphold the law.
Solis: I believe the 1931 law is there for a time such as this. It needs to be respected, upheld and enforced. I disagree on the efforts to repeal it.
8. If elected, how would you keep children safe in schools from gun violence?
Carra: When tragedy strikes, we need to be more prepared, not less prepared. Our children’s lives must be protected at all costs. That is why I have worked with former sheriff, Representative Bob Bezotte, on House Bill 6151 that would require principals to offer at least three school employees the option to stow a firearm in a secure lock box in school. Having several school employees immediately ready to respond when seconds matter will help to ensure our kids are safe and protected.
Coleman: Everybody wants a safe place for our children to attend school. I feel each school district is different and they should decide for themselves. I feel the decision should be left up to the parents, teachers, staff, and law enforcement together, to decide what the appropriate necessary security measures are for their individual needs. I don’t feel the federal or state government should have a one size fits all approach as each school district is different. We need to improve the services available and process, for parents and teachers, to get help to our children, in a timely manner, when the students are exhibiting signs of mental or emotional distress.
McGraw: Violence by any means is not acceptable. When it comes to guns, we need to keep in mind that people need to respect the value of life. Strengthening our security at schools is a top priority of mine. We need to make sure the school staff knows how to react in the case of an emergency.
Solis: Gun violence is very much a mental health issue. Schools need more security guards. And society needs moral standards that teach the value of life.
9. What is your philosophy when it comes to legislating?
Carra: As your constitutional conservative legislator, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Government doesn’t give people rights or grant people permission, the proper role of government is to protect the rights endowed to us by our Creator.
Coleman: I will legislate and base my decisions on three core principals: Is it Morally, correct? Is it Constitutional? Is beneficial to most people in our district or state?
McGraw: Government is extending too much control over our lives and businesses. Legislation should be for the benefit of the people and our current leaders in Lansing are not listening to the people of Southwest Michigan. The government involvement in our daily lives should be for the benefit of the people, not for limiting our productivity or infringing on our beliefs. I will listen to the people of our district by being available and attending local events and meetings. Developing relationships within the district is the way to learn what the people feel who you are representing.
Solis: Legislation must be a reflection of our constitution as it was originally written. And legislation shouldn’t be driven by “the political party,“ it should be driven by the voice of the people that a representative was elected to represent.
10. What do you believe the state of elections in the state of Michigan is?
Carra: Our elections are ripe for fraud and need to be further secured. Absentee ballot applications were sent out unsolicited last term, the signature verification process was erroneously relaxed, and drop boxes were placed throughout the state. In the past two years, I have beaten Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in court, protecting poll challengers’ rights to effectively view and challenge inaccurate ballots. I introduced House Bill 5091, which would conduct an audit on the 2020 election but too many weak republicans were unwilling to further investigate the size and scope of the problem here in Michigan.
Coleman: I see voters finding focus. I see reasonable people trying to find the best candidate based on what they feel is the best for the areas they live in and what they feel personally. As I am writing this, there are nearly 40% of voters that have not decided who to vote for in the primary for governor. That is very unusual one week before an election. Voters are becoming more informed and are not giving their vote loosely. There are several common-sense things we can do to improve and strengthen our election process. We need to review the Qualified Voter File and remove people that are deceased or moved. We have to ensure the laws protecting our elections are followed and hold those accountable when laws are violated. No exceptions, no double standards. We need to make sure outside influencers are not allowed to participate or influence anything about our election process. Maintaining election integrity and security should be a high priority of everyone regardless of political affiliation.
McGraw: Elections need to be fair and honest; voting is a sacred right that needs to be pure and protected. I support strengthening our election laws to guarantee this process is kept fair and will work hard to ensure Michigan elections are held in accordance with the law. We have an opportunity to improve our elections to make sure each citizen has one vote. This is the time we need to look at our systems and make sure they are accomplishing their intended purpose.
Solis: If I understand the question you’re asking, the state of our elections in the state has been questionable and compromised.
11. If you do not win the primary or the general election, what will you do?
Carra: If I were to lose the primary, I would support the republican primary winner. Write-in campaigns are dangerous and could lead to the democrat winning in November by splitting the conservative vote.
Coleman: I will continue to serve our district in the roles I am currently in including with the Road Commission. I will also continue to serve my township, and continue with my volunteer work.
McGraw: I may retire from my job to dedicate more time to the Republican Party, both here in district and at the state level. I have been involved with the GOP for most of the past 20 years and I plan to continue that work. I may run again if am not successful in this election.
Solis: I will continue to Pastor a church and serve our community.
12. Why should people vote for you to be their state representative?
Carra: 95% of elected officials enter politics with good intentions but end up going along to get along. The status quo will not save our country as the radical left continues to destroy it. We need to stand strong for our conservative, pro-freedom, and pro-business principles. Based on my proven track record of holding true to these principles during my current term as your state representative, the NRA, Michigan Corn Growers, the Fraternal Order of Police, Michigan Pro Life, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, and President Donald Trump have endorsed me and are asking you to support me for re-election on August 2nd.
Coleman: I will be your State Representative reflecting on the concerns in the area of our District. The focus primarily on representing you, our friends and neighbors, and work with our federal representatives, when necessary, in the improvement of our District and State. I will be a State Representative with vision and common-sense as I hope you see, as I do, a bright and prosperous future for Michigan and our district. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to the opportunity to serve you in making our district and state stronger.
McGraw: I feel I am the candidate that will represent the people of our district the best of all the candidates on the ballot. I have experience as an elected official, I have experience with the political process, and I have experience as a small business owner. This experience, as well as my life experience, gives me the perspective to serve the people well of the 36th district.
Solis: Because of my faith in Jesus, love for family, value for community, and my uncompromising commitment to see Michigan thrive under a conservative, constitutionally driven government make me the perfect candidate for Michigan’s House of Representatives. As a strong constitutional conservative, I aim to bring conservative values back to Lansing as our nation and state, is slipping down a dangerous path of liberalism/progressivism. I believe that together we can and must put America and Americans first! It is my whole-hearted belief that politicians should work alongside the people they represent. A representative should bring the people’s voice to Lansing, not Lansing’s voice to the people.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.