House race has political newcomer challenging Wentworth

November 1, 2018

Celia Young-Wenkel, Democrat

Young-Wenkel is challenging incumbent Republican candidate Jason Wentworth for a two-year term in Michigan’s 97th House of Representatives District. For Young-Wenkel’s complete biography and platform, please visit https://www.facebook.com/celiafor97mi This exclusive interview was provided for the Marion Press and Clare County Review. Remarks edited for clarity.

Candidate Celia-Young-Wenkel

Candidate Celia-Young-Wenkel

Marion Press: Tell us a little bit about your background. What life experiences make you a good candidate to represent the 97th District?
Young-Wenkel: I have a real unique connection to each of the counties in the 97th District. I was born in the Reed City Hospital – which isn’t a part of my district, but it is in Osceola County. I spent my first five years of my career as a children’s protective services worker in Clare County, so I had occasion to come here to the Marion High School because some of our Clare County kids came here. And then, from the time I was 13 until I went off and got married, I lived in Gladwin County – and my parents lived in Gladwin County until 2000. And I’ve lived in Arenac County for the last 23 years, since 1995. I’ve spent the last 17 years of my career as a children’s protective services worker in Arenac County – in Standish, and that’s where I live now. So I have a unique connection with each of the counties in the 97th District.
I’m married to a farmer. We have four kids between us, and six grandkids. Our oldest grandchild is 11, so we were late bloomers to the grandparent job. We actually have three Wolverines and a Chippewa (Michigan and Central Michigan). I myself have a bachelor’s degree from Saginaw Valley, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Grand Valley State.
I was a children’s protective services worker for most of my 22 years of service, and so I know the problems of the 97th District firsthand, and tried to work to solve them one family at a time.

MP: What do you feel are some of the most important issues regarding Osceola County and the 97th district?
Young-Wenkel: My platform consists of three issues. Number one: Health care. Health care is our largest employer in each of the counties of the 97th District. Our hospitals, our nursing homes, our medical facilities, our home health care agencies. Our communities are aging because our kids leave because there’s not a lot of opportunity here. During the fight over the Affordable Care Act, we met with my state Senator, Stamos. And he said that if the Affordable Care Act were repealed, that our hospitals in our rural communities would probably go under. Can you imagine Reed City, Clare, Standish, and Gladwin without our hospitals? We would be ghost towns, and ghost counties. Health care for all not only saves lives, but it also creates jobs.
One of my biggest issues with health care: Back in the mid ‘90s, I was doing adult services, and I had a guy who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; he was late 40s, early 50s. And we had nothing for him at that time, absolutely nothing; no county program, nothing to give him for medication for his type 2 diabetes. But when his illness got to the point where he was disabled, he would’ve gotten Medicaid; he would’ve gotten transportation to and from his kidney dialysis, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So when people say to me: ‘How can we afford to pay for health care for all?’ I say: How can we not afford to pay for health care for all. Our Medicaid expansion is so important; I will fight for our Medicaid expansion.
My second issue is gun safety. People told me I was crazy when I said I was going to run on safety. And I said: Call me crazy, because I’m running on gun safety. In 2016, my son’s wife dad killed his wife and then himself. So at the time, my grandchildren were two and five. So this is something that is going to be hard for them. And I know that the best way to use that pain is to help others, so I’m hoping that as they get older, my grandchildren will learn that.
In 2017, I signed up with Moms Demand Action, and then on February 14th of 2018, I was watching the coverage of the Parkland shooting; I was in that same depression of hopelessness and helplessness, and it dawned on me that my brother was down in that area in Coral Springs, and I had no idea where the kids were going to school. So I messaged my brother and asked how close to the girls school was this shooting? And he messaged me back, and he said: Megan was hit by shrapnel when the shooter shot the glass out of the door of her classroom. And I went into total meltdown – I just could not imagine that happening to one of my nieces. So my commitment to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was doubled.
Moms Demand Action, we support the Heller decision of 2008. In Washington D.C. they have a law that people were not allowed to own guns within the city limits. Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, and in the first section of his opinion he said: People have the right to own guns for self-protection. And in the second section of Scalia’s decision, he said: That doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to carry any kind of weapon, anywhere. So that’s the basis for our philosophy. We support the second amendment, but we’re for common sense gun laws.
My third issue is public education versus education for profit. The online school district in our area, K-12 Incorporated, is the biggest provider of that service. The kids who attend the online school district get the same amount of state aid as the kids who attend our brick and mortar schools. Even Governor Snyder proposed in his latest budget that we would cut the funding for the online school district by 20 percent and give that money back to our public schools to use for special education services and such – and it didn’t make it through our Republican legislature. The second part of that is that K-12 Incorporated is actually owned by a corporation called Plato’s Learning. And corporate headquarters for Plato’s Learning is located in Bloomfield, Minnesota. So when a student signs up for the online public school, our property tax dollars – their state aid – actually goes to Bloomfield, Minnesota. And our schools are in our top five employers, so can you imagine a corporation just taking money from their coffers and sending it off? Because that money could be used to employ more teachers.

Jason Wentworth, Republican
(Incumbent)

Candidate Jason Wentworth

Candidate Jason Wentworth

Incumbent Republican candidate Jason Wentworth is challenging Democrat Celia Young-Wenkel for a two-year term in Michigan’s 97th House of Representatives District. For Wentworth’s complete biography and platform, please visit https://www.facebook.com/VoteWentworth/ This exclusive interview was provided for the Marion Press and Clare County Review. Remarks edited for clarity.

Marion Press: We’re less than a week away now, how are you feeling going into the election?
Wentworth: I’m feeling good. I think for our district, we’ve put the time and the work in. Truly for the House of Representatives, the campaign starts the day after you get elected, for your re-election. If you put the time and work into what’s considered the off-year, then the actual campaign year is a little easier. And that’s what we’ve focused on – truly just serving the district for the last two years, and not going in and out of campaign mode.

MP: You were elected to your first term in 2016. What have been some of the big issues and concerns that you’ve addressed, or that you’re working to address?
Wentworth: One of the biggest ones that I’ve been focused on is auto no-fault reform. We pay the highest auto insurance rates in the country, in Michigan. Not just the highest, but a thousand dollars more than the average across the country. So reform is important, and there’s three things that I look at when I look at reforming our no-fault system: One is choice.
So right now, you’re mandated by the government to purchase unlimited medical coverage – you don’t have the option to choose your level of coverage. We’re the only state in the country that does it that way, and I think that’s essential that we change in order to reduce the cost of your premiums; we have to have a choice in those options.
The second part of that is the fee schedule. So right now, you can walk into a hospital and get an MRI through your health care insurance. Say, you have blue cross: They might charge you for an X-ray, maybe four hundred bucks. If you’re injured in an automobile accident, they’re going to charge your auto insurance company four thousand dollars, in some cases. It’s much, much higher than what it is if you’re just walking down the street for normal health care, or even workmen’s comp, or Medicaid or Medicare. The hospitals can charge insurance companies much more money than what they should be able to. So initiating a fee schedule is also important to control costs.
And the third part of this is fraud. We have a lot of uninsured drivers who simply can’t afford to purchase unlimited no-fault insurance. So if we bring down the costs, what that’s going to do is allow those people to afford insurance, and purchase it, so we have less fraud in the system. We also have a lot of situations where trial attorneys take advantage of the system; with hospitals charging much more money than they would if you had health care. There are people who own health clinics who are also trial attorneys or vise versa; lots of fraud. Lots of room there to improve and reduce the opportunity for fraud in the state.
The other issue that we’ve addressed partially in my first term, a big one that I was the author of, is the county veterans’ service opportunity, which is improving the service delivery to the veterans in our state. The first time in the history of Michigan that the state government is investing in local service delivery for our veterans. At the county level, the veterans will walk into the county building and need services, and, generally speaking, there’s a county veterans’ service department within the county. But 11 counties in the state of Michigan do not have a veterans’ service office, including Arenac County. So veterans in Arenac County have to drive, sometimes, two counties over to obtain the services that they’ve earned. And I think that’s a terrible thing. That why, I think, veterans aren’t getting the services. The lack of availability of these veterans’ service offices is the biggest concern. So we addressed that.
I started off with a giant bill that included a lot of reform, but through compromise and the legislative process, we had to modify and change that a little bit. We went from asking for a five million dollar investment, and we got 2.1 million. My goal in this reelection is to continue to push for that, and advocate for more dollars to put into that system: it truly is going to change the way we deliver benefit services to our veterans. It’s important that our state invests in that. We are the only state in the country that does it the way we do it, through our veterans’ service agencies: VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans. Those service organizations provide the service delivery to our veterans in the state. The county service departments do as well, but they’re not funded by the state. They’re funded by the counties, and we all know that counties have been underfunded for decades.



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