Alpena County Commissioner Ken Hubbard calls 106th District Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, a friend. But because of growing concerns over the path Michigan's state government has taken, Hubbard has chosen to put friendships aside and challenge Pettalia for the House seat in Lansing.
A Democrat from Alpena, Hubbard said being a county commissioner has afforded him the opportunity to see firsthand how the decisions made in Lansing affect the small communities in Northeast Michigan. He said the increasing number of state mandates placed on local government has handcuffed it, as well as made it difficult to pay for the changes demanded.
"I decided to run after watching the amount of money from Lansing to the local communities reduced and because of all of the strings attached to it," Hubbard said. "I don't think one size fits all in the state and we need someone from here to make a plea for more of our revenue sharing and increased help for the smaller communities like the ones in Northeast Michigan."
Besides the continued cuts to revenue sharing, Hubbard said he is concerned with the current tax laws in the state and how they affect blue collar workers. Education and small business also are issues Hubbard thinks he can be effective in addressing if elected.
"I want to present an alternative in Lansing and to help stop the blows the working people in the state continue to take," Hubbard said. "People are living paycheck to paycheck and we need someone in there who can say 'we're in trouble and we need help.' The current troubles in the state are not due to the workers and it seems they are the ones who are being punished."
Hubbard said there was a push by Michigan several years ago to make it more attractive to live for people who were retired. He said the government at that time gave the seniors incentive to live here, but now the incentive has been abolished and Hubbard fears many will migrate to the southern states' warmer climate.
"There are a lot of retired people who chose to retire here because their retirement pensions weren't taxed," Hubbard said. "Now they are and these people may choose to leave and go to places like Florida or Arizona because the incentive they had is now gone. We need those people here and I believe those people want to be here. We can't keep pushing them away."
Before deciding to run Hubbard sought the advice of several close friends and family. He said his decision was received with mixed reaction, but his family supported the move.
"I have the support of my family from my mother to my daughters and that support will remain no matter how this plays out," Hubbard said. "I talked to three of my close friends about it and two of them told me not to do it. But it is something I feel very strongly about and I feel that if I didn't at least try it would be something that would haunt me the rest of my life."
Hubbard, who's seat in Alpena County is to become vacant at the end of December, said he will continue to serve the county as he always has while campaigning for the Aug. 13 primary election. Hubbard is the first Democrat to file, but he said he expect someone to file before the May 15 deadline. He said if he is elected in November he will do his best to work with the Republicans in the House to get important issues resolved.
"There is a definite split in the country right now and you have to be able to reach across the aisle and and be able to find a reasonable solution which both sides will benefit from," Hubbard said. "Each side might get hurt, each side might get something they benefit from, but we can't have just one winner. We have to have it so the winner is the people of Northeast Michigan."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.