Moolenaar challenged by Hilliard for Congressional seat

November 1, 2018

John Moolenaar,
Republican (Incumbent)

Candidate John Moolenaar

Candidate John Moolenaar

Moolenaar is challenging Democrat candidate Jerry Hilliard for a two-year term in Michigan’s 4th Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives. For Moolenaar’s complete biography and platform, please visit johnmoolenaarforcongress.com This exclusive interview was provided for the Marion Press and Clare County Review. Remarks edited for clarity.

Marion Press: Can you tell us a little bit about your time in Michigan’s 4th Congressional District, and some of what you’ve accomplished there?
Moolenaar: Well my priorities are jobs, the opioid crisis – fighting that, and Michigan agriculture; promoting Michigan agriculture. Right now, the economy is strong and Michigan workers are keeping more of their money because of the tax cuts we’ve enacted. Lower rates mean that they’re going to save money next year when they file their taxes. And I’ve supported skilled trades and vocational learning so that our residents can be prepared for future job opportunities. Quite often, I’m traveling around and talking with employers who say that they could hire people if they had employees with the right skills. One of the concerns that we have is the opioid crisis that’s hurting families and our communities. I voted for funding for prevention as well as rehabilitation efforts – which also includes researching non-addictive treatments that help patients recover without using opioids; non-addictive pain medicine. Finally, agriculture is vital to our rural communities and I’ve been meeting regularly with farmers to hear their concerns. I’m proud to have the support of Michigan Farm Bureau and I’m going to continue to support policies that help our farmers and the outstanding work they do.

MP: Some of the issues and concerns we’ve been hearing locally: Farmers dealing with low milk prices; small businesses and rural areas dealing with a lack of infrastructure and technology. What issues and concerns have you been hearing, and how have you addressed them? How do you plan on continuing to address them?
Moolenaar: I meet with farmers across the district on a regular basis and listen to their concerns. I appreciate that they grow the food for our communities and for people all over the world. One of the things I’ve been in strong support of is crop insurance – so that famers have more certainty when damaging weather destroys their harvest. I also voted for the Farm Bill, which supports vital programs and helps farmers get started in agriculture. As a member of the Appropriations Committee I’ve voted to fund research that protects crops and livestock from diseases along with food safety efforts so that families have safe food to enjoy. And I’m going to continue to work on the priorities of our farmers, including labor, and more market access for Michigan dairy – I think we’ve made tremendous progress with the trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada. Mexico has opened up markets for our cheese, and for our milk. And Canada, where we’re addressing some of the Canadian limitations for market access for our dairy in Canada; we’ve made tremendous strides there. Also, I voted to repeal the death tax so that Michigan families can pass farms on to future generations. So I’ve been strongly advocating for the 15,000 farmers in our district, and I’m going to continue to do so in the coming years.
And the falling prices are a problem. And I recognize that while the broader economy is doing well with wage increases and unemployment down to its lowest point in 49 years and the fastest wage growth in a decade. I am concerned about the falling prices. And we do need a new Farm Bill to help our growers – it’s currently in a conference committee. But they need that bill to be enacted to provide certainty in the years ahead. And we also want to keep expanding market access so that our farmers will be able to sell their products in more markets and get better prices for them. The money made selling in those markets comes back to our home communities, so that’s a big priority.
I believe that one of the biggest challenges for families and businesses in northern Michigan and most rural areas of our state, is access to high-speed broadband internet. And I’ve worked to bring people together for roundtables on this issue: federal, state, and local leaders both in the public sector and the private sector. And we were able to work with colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to include more than 600 million dollars in loans and grants in order to expand rural broadband access. It’s the first step, and I want to make sure that Congress continues that momentum and make sure that there’s accountability for actually accomplishing these goals and bringing broadband access to our entire country.

MP: You’re a chemist by trade, correct? What was it that made you want to get into politics initially?
Moolenaar: You know, I enjoy helping others, and serving others. I did start as a chemist, but I realized that wasn’t a field I wanted to pursue long-term. I worked with Bill Schuette when he first ran for office in the ‘80s, and helped on different campaigns, and it sparked the interest I’ve had in public service. I’ve been honored to serve on the local, state, and now federal level and I’m hoping to continue my service. This is my fourth year in congress, and we’ve got more work to do. So I’m hoping to continue and would welcome the vote of 4th District residents.

MP: With all the divisiveness and partisanship in Washington, how can we work to get things done in a bipartisan manner?
Moolenaar: I’ve worked across the aisle on a number of important priorities for our state, including the Great Lakes Resoration Initiative, as well as the Soo Locks. On the House Appropriations Committee, I led the fight to secure funding for the GLRI and that keeps invasive species and pollution out of the great lakes. And it’s helping to protect the lakes for future generations. I also recently led a bi-partisan letter about the Soo Locks, asking the Army Corps of Engineers to include the project in its work plan for next year. We’re seeing tremendous progress on that issue, and I hope that will continue to be the case, so we can keep this project moving forward. A lot of this momentum came as a result of working with colleagues across the aisle, and talking with our President, who has fully embraced the new Soo Locks, as well as our governor. And wherever I can, I like to work together – especially on behalf of our great lakes, where we have 20 percent of the world’s freshwater. I have good relationships with our colleagues, and wherever we can, work together on key priorities for our state.

MP: What should our readers know about you that they might not see on TV or in the news? Any hobbies or interests? How do you spend your free time?
Moolenaar: I enjoy spending time with my family, especially when I’m so many days away in D.C. and cannot be with them, I always welcome the chance to be with them in Michigan. I enjoy watching high school basketball. Our son is a senior this year, in high school, and I’ve always enjoyed, as a parent, watching our kids participate in athletics. This is his last year as a high school student, so I’m excited about the upcoming season.

MP: Why should citizens of Michigan’s 4th Congressional District vote for you on Tuesday, and what can they expect if you’re reelected?
Moolenaar: Well, I work hard for policies that benefit the residents of mid and northern Michigan. I’m a strong advocate; I’ve fought for and secured funding for the great lakes. I voted to hold the VA accountable for its failures; I’ve supported a cost-of-living allowance increase for our veterans. I’ve voted to cut taxes so hard-working men and women in mid and northern Michigan can keep more of their own money. And we’ve seen benefits from that, as companies invest more in Michigan, building new facilities and hiring new employees. It’s always a good thing when Michigan families can keep more of their own money.

Jerry Hilliard, Democrat

Candidate Jerry Hilliard

Candidate Jerry Hilliard

Hilliard is challenging Republican incumbent John Moolenaar for a two-year term in Michigan’s 4th Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives. For Hilliard’s complete biography and platform, please visit www.hilliardforcongress.com 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 from election day, how are you feeling?
Hilliard: I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress over what’s happened in the past in this district. It’s so gerrymandered that we’ve had a hard time finding somebody to even run for this office. And that was one of my key reasons I decided to start back in early 2017 – to make an impact on this district.

MP: Tell us a little bit about your background. What experiences have made you a good candidate for the US House of Representatives?
Hilliard: I grew up in the 4th district. I’ve watched TV 9 and 10 since the days when all we had – when all most people in northern Michigan had was black and white TV. I grew up in Clare County, and I’ve lived in several other counties in northern Michigan. And I think I have a different perspective – you can’t really look at the rural parts of this district as we look at Midland, say. Just recently in the Cadillac News article, it stated that many communities in northern Michigan have grown poorer in the last four years, despite the fact that the unemployment rate is down. So I’ve earned most of my living through my life in the 4th district, and I know that you can’t really compare rural areas of Michigan to cities.
Farm prices are a topic that’s important around the 4th district. And what we need to do is work better with the Michigan Farm Bureau, and plan our crops and plan our production in a way that’s going to keep the price up. In the past we’ve managed it very well, but right now times are challenging and farmers are facing problems that they haven’t faced before. So we have to learn new tactics to try to make sure that the farmers are successful.

MP: What are some of the big issues and concerns that you’ve been hearing about, and that you’ll work to address?
Hilliard: Of course, there’s health care. I think that’s probably the biggest issue that people talk about. We need a system that works for everybody. We pay more – significant amounts more – for our health care than other developed nations. We need to find a way to provide health care that works for everyone. Also, education is a big issue. And we need to get a world class broadband set up in our 4th district. The jobs of the future are going to be tech jobs, and if we don’t get our education and our infrastructure up to world standards, we are going to be left behind. But on the other hand, we should be a place where a tech person would want to work. I mean, we’ve got beautiful lakes, rivers, streams; snowmobiling, skiing. This is a great place to live. And we need to push that, and we need to get ready for it. And we’re going to do that by education and infrastructure. If we can do that, we will have a place that will prosper for many decades to come. If we don’t do it, we’re going to get left behind.

MP: Why did you decide to get involved with politics and run for office?
Hilliard: Well, it wasn’t my lifelong dream, I’ll tell you that. But I just wasn’t happy with what was going on. And I was at a point in my life where I was able to devote the time and the effort, and the money that is needed to become successful and help the people of the 4th district. Not everybody can do this – there’s a lot of good candidates out there, but they’re at a point in life where they just can’t afford to do it.

MP: With all the divisiveness and partisanship in Washington, how can we work to get things done in a bipartisan manner?
Hilliard: That’s not an easy task, but I’m willing to listen. And I’m from a rural area, so I think it gives me a different perspective than a lot people who go to Congress. Most people who grow up in the rural areas don’t have the money and resources to do that. I’m not rich by any means, but I have the opportunity to go out and help the people I grew up with my entire life. I think that will help me talk to other like-minded and reasonable politicians to get some stuff done that we really need to get done.

MP: When you’re not out on the campaign trail, how do spend your free time? Any hobbies or interests that our readers might not know about?
Hilliard: In normal times, I have a lot of hobbies, but really this last two years has been dedicated to running for office. It’s a huge challenge. Our district is obviously gerrymandered to favor my opposition party, so I’ve felt that all my time and effort has to go into this. But I like to watch sports; I’m a big Michigan State and U of M fan. I like to enjoy the high school sports around – I have nieces and nephews who’ve played around, in Harrison and in other towns. I used to coach at Beaverton High School. I just enjoy going to the gym, and hanging out with my family and friends.

MP: Why should citizens of Michigan’s 4th District vote for you on Tuesday, and what can they expect if you’re elected?
Hilliard: They can expect somebody who’s based in reality, as far as how economics go. I teach economics at Mid-Michigan Community College and Lansing Community College, and I think a look at the big picture economically will help our district greatly. And I have a perspective of the rural counties, which my opponent doesn’t – he’s a city guy, and he’s been there his whole life, so I just think I’m more in touch with the local people than my opponent.
I’ll be working just as hard for the people of the 4th district as I worked hard to try to overcome some of the obstacles of the democrats in this district.



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