Two Democratic candidates are vying for the opportunity to appear on the November general election ballot and a chance to serve Midland in Lansing.
Midland resident Matt Dawson and Gladwin County resident Larry Grell are running for the new 95th State Representative District encompassing Midland County and parts of Gladwin County.
The Daily News sent the candidates questions and asked them to keep their responses to less than 100 words. The Daily News lightly edited answers for clarity and style. For more coverage on 95th State Representative District visit ourmidland.com and read the “2022 Primary Election Voter Guide.”
MDN: If legislation that would effectively ban abortion in Michigan – in all forms and under all circumstances – came before you for a vote, would you vote to approve it? This requires a yes or no answer.
Dawson: No. I am a proponent of reproductive freedom for all.
It’s possible that Michigan’s abortion law will change as guidelines move back to the states to decide. If Michigan’s law criminalizes abortion, would you support legislation that would allow police to arrest and prosecute mothers and abortion providers?
With recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York, and Oxford, many Michiganders are calling for gun control measures. Would you support or oppose universal background checks, assault weapon bans, high-capacity magazine bans, red flag laws or any other legislation that would limit the Second Amendment in Michigan? Explain your reasoning.
Dawson: Before moving forward with new legislation, I would like us to take a closer look at how we are executing background checks to ensure they are being done as intended right now. There is no point in introducing new background checks if we already have ones we aren’t completing to begin with. If we find that they are being completed as intended, I would be open to looking into “red flag” laws, however I am a supporter of the second amendment. I would also support legislation to close gun show loopholes.
Grell: Support. I would not support doing away with the second amendment.
Should public school curriculum decisions fall solely to state education and local school officials? What if any input should parents have on what is taught in classrooms in areas such as history, government and science?
Dawson: Parents’ input can and should be displayed via school councils. They have the ability to elect officials to represent their concerns to administrators and educators. I also believe that we need to leave our curriculum largely in the hands of those who have dedicated their lives to studying and developing programs as they are experts on the matter.
Grell: No. A committee of parents should have some suggestions.
Do you believe that critical race theory is being taught in Michigan’s elementary, middle and high schools? Please clearly answer yes or no and then explain your reasoning.
Dawson: No. There is no evidence it is being taught in area schools and I believe it is a scare tactic pushed by people who have interests in weakening our education system to prop up the idea of vouchers to lead to a privatization of our school system.
Grell: No. I don’t think we are teaching racism in schools.
Many Michiganders are dealing with higher costs at grocery stores and $5-a-gallon gas prices. What is one idea you would bring to Lansing to try to help Michigan residents trying to cope with rising inflation and gas prices?
Dawson: Immediately, I would support a temporary reduction on state levied income taxes, dependent on tax bracket. I also would push for capping the amount of money funneled into state and local level political campaigns to limit the influence of lobbies and PACs that, I believe, inspire politicians to fight more for their big donors than the average citizen – thus leading to some industry leaders feeling they can get away with oppressive prices on the working class.
Grell: We have to stop gas companies from gouging us and make them charge reasonable prices.
After the 2020 general election, the integrity of U.S elections became a debated issue. Michigan was one of the states that often was cited by critics as having problems. Do you believe that the 2020 election in Michigan resulted in fair and honest results? Do you believe that a level of fraud occurred that resulted in an unfair and dishonest result?
Dawson: The 2020 election was fair and honest. Our own county clerk, a Republican, and several other GOP officials have confirmed as much. No viable and/or substantial information has been presented to suggest otherwise. Don’t quote “2000 Mules” to me, it’s a propaganda film made by a talentless “documentarian” developed to take money away from easily swayed conservatives.
Grell: Yes. No.
What type of election reform, if any, would you support as state representative?
Dawson: Strict caps on campaign donations, specifically from PACs. Take money out of our politics and, I believe, we would be surprised to see how much of a detoxifying effect it would have. Nearly $1 million was spent on negative ad buys in the local market last cycle. When the election was over, the people pouring that money into the ads left town and the community was left to deal with the toxicity in their wake. I also believe in protecting voting rights by objecting to any voting ID requirements and maintaining no-reason absentee (and hopefully eventually early) voting.
Grell: None. I think our elections are in good shape.
Some states are considering, or have passed laws, banning transgender athletes from competing in sports with the gender they identify with. Would you support a similar bill in Michigan?
Dawson: I do not support legislation that limits the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens. I believe this is an issue that can and should be handled on a more local level by school athletic departments.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled in favor of a public high school football coach who led the team in Christian prayers on the field. Another decision allowed taxpayer money to be used to pay to send students to attend religious schools in Maine. How would your religious beliefs impact your decision-making when you consider proposed legislation? Do you think faith should play any role in the job of an elected official?
Dawson: Any religious beliefs I have would have zero impact on my government decision-making. I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.
Grell: We have two different subjects here. If the kids want to be involved fine, if not, that should be OK also. No, I think that it is wrong to use taxpayer money for that purpose.
As state representative, explain one idea you would bring to Lansing to improve mental health care for Michiganders.
Dawson: Michigan has some of the lowest funding for mental health care at the school level. I would support expanding child access to mental health professionals, as well as supporting an expansion of access to affordable health care for all Michiganders, which would include access to mental health resources.
Grell: We need an advocate in health care to help identify these people and get them help.
Michigan’s auto insurance reform has helped many save money on auto insurance, but it also has stripped away financial support for residents who have suffered catastrophic injuries in auto accidents. What can be done to provide necessary support for disabled crash survivors and yet keep insurance premiums more manageable for Michigan families?
Dawson: Any residents who can prove they were covered and eligible before the change of the law should maintain their eligibility that they had. Stripping those benefits is a direct result of insurance companies choosing money over what is morally right. This law was intended to help lower insurance costs, not punish those who were disabled in crashes before the law changed.
Grell: It should not have stripped away financial support on previous victims. You have to buy the insurance that is best for you and