11th District State Senate Democrats Square Off at First Forum (video)
(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 12, 2014)
A dozen days before the filing deadline, three Democratic candidates for the State Senate 11th District came before the Oak Park-Huntington Woods Democratic Club for their first forum. Current State Senator Vince Gregory of Southfield is being challenged in the Aug. 5 primary by two current State House Representatives – Vicki Barnett of Farmington Hills and Ellen Cogen Lipton of Huntington Woods. The 11th District includes the cities of Farmington, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Southfield, and Royal Oak Township.
The forum lasted for over an hour, with candidates talking about their political priorities, their backgrounds, their view on medical marijuana, their view on healthcare, and what makes them unique as a candidate.
Gregory, the incumbent, shared that he’d been an officer with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department for 29 years, serving most recently as a detective. He served as an Oakland County Commissioner for ten years, then as State Rep, and finally State Senate. He said that his top three priorities are education, roads and infrastructure and bringing jobs to the state. One example in education he gave was the hope to expand the “Promise Zone” idea, which is a program that pays for the college education of qualifying students in the district. “Just like we’ve seen with the Kalamazoo Promise, we know that Kalamazoo has grown because of the Kalamazoo Promise. If the state took on that kind of attitude to say ‘we will invest in education,’ we wouldn’t have enough space for people who’d want to move to this state,” Gregory said.
When asked about marijuana decriminalization, he said he was in favor of it as it was the will of the people and because of an experience that he saw personally. “I had a son who passed away from MS several years ago, 3-4 years ago, and I can tell you firsthand that he passed away there was a culmination of long suffering the last couple of years and I can tell you that he did you marijuana to help him ease his pain. He was on a ton of medication and said that was the one thing that helped him.”
Gregory also spoke about having served one year in Vietnam, and how as part of the Veteran’s Committee he helped make it easy for soldiers overseas to vote, by allowing them to receive their ballots via email.
Barnett is the former Mayor of Farmington Hills and currently serves in the State House of Representatives 37th District. Barnett grew up in Oak Park and lived in the cities in the current 11th District for her entire life. “I have focused my energies on economic development, revitalization, on environmental protection and making sure our schools are the best they can be for every child, that our communities remain safe, and that our infrastructure is repaired and remains viable for the next generation to come.”
Barnett shared an idea to increase the sales tax by one penny and use the $1.6 billion to pay for college for every high school graduate in Michigan. She spoke about damage done by charter schools and schools of choice. “We expanded, under Engler, this idea that charter schools are the greatest new wave in education,” she said. “Public schools form the foundation of our communities that you chose to live in, that support the property values of the homes you’ve invested in and form the foundation and excitement of being a member of a neighborhood. As we move away from that notion, we’re destroying our communities. We’re destroying the foundation of what makes places special.
Ellen Cogen Lipton
Cogen Lipton serves the 27th House District and she lives in Huntington Woods. The Harvard-educated patent attorney got her start in politics after lobbying for stem cell research. She won the MIRS News Service award for Most Effective Democratic Legislator because of her work in supporting public schools and in protecting the no-fault insurance system in the state.
“I took a somewhat unconventional path to the legislature. Most people in Lansing served in some other elected capacity and that may be more of a conventional path but I’m here as a testament to the fact that it’s not the only path,” Cogen Lipton said. “My path to the legislature was by way of patent law and as a patent attorney and a belief and a fire in my insides there were people of my skill-set, someone that could ask questions, people that could speak truth to power, people that did not necessarily come through the normal channels… I’ve become very passionate about fanning the flame in each individual person, that which causes each of us to sort of say ‘this is what keeps me up at night,’ ‘This is what I am going to stand for.’ And because of that I’ve been able to take that to Lansing.”
Being that the 11th Senate District is heavily Democratic, the race will essentially be decided on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. There is still time for other candidates to file.
To learn more about The Oak Park- Huntington Woods Democrats, visit their website at http://www.ophwdemocraticclub.com/Pages/default.aspx.
For election-related stories through Oakland County, check out our Election Information Tab.