A Posen native with deep ties to Northeast Michigan has announced his intention to run for the state House of Representatives.
Nicholas Hein, 29, announced his candidacy on Wednesday, despite filing in May, he said. He delayed the announcement until the end of the academic year at the school where he teaches.
Both Hein and Alpena County Commission member Ken Hubbard will compete for the nomination to run as a Democrat against incumbent Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. Voters will decide who'll be on the November ballot for the 106th district on Aug. 7.
The 106th district covers Alcona, Alpena, Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda and Presque Isle counties.
"I'd love to run against (Pettalia) just on his voting record, plain and simple," Hein said. As an example, he gave the lawmaker's vote to cut education funding by a minimum of $430 per pupil and to cut state aid to public colleges and universities by 15 percent.
Being a teacher himself, Hein has personally witnessed the effects of these cuts on students, he said. He teaches in St. Ignace, and said the budgetary problems there are present in districts throughout the region.
"Every school district is running in the red right now," he said. "They're all bankrupt. It's to the point where they've got about two years before they're looking at firing half the staff."
As a result of the cuts, Hein said, schools don't have the resources to meet the needs of different kinds of learners, and they're struggling to keep down class sizes and provide a variety of programs.
Another effect is the ever-increasing cost of college, Hein said. At Central Michigan University, his alma mater, tuition has increased to an amount that he says the average person can't afford. As a result, graduates are starting their lives with loans the size of house mortgages.
Combine low education funding with failing roads, and it creates a bad environment for businesses, Hein said.
Hein also said he hopes the country can get away from supply-side economics, adding he agrees with then-President George H.W. Bush's assessment of the concept as "voodoo economics."
"Businesses hire based on demand, period," he said. "If average people don't have money, it doesn't matter how much money the wealthy have. It doesn't work the other way. I don't know how people have been sold on the idea that if Joe Smith has a million dollars, he hires people. He only hires people if there's a demand for his product."
Hein would also like Michiganders to have the opportunity to buy health care in a co-op system, he said. Health care costs are the number-one cause for personal bankruptcies, and co-ops could provide an affordable option.
A Rogers City High School graduate, Hein then went to Alpena Community College before going to CMU for his bachelor's degree, and later, his master's degree, he said. He worked for five years at Carmeuse Lime and Stone, and has strong ties to agriculture. For his hobbies he hunts and restores cars. Indeed, he's a co-owner of an auto garage in Rogers City that will open within the month.
Hein conceded that Pettalia has an incumbent's advantage, but added he believes his chances of winning in November are good. He's tapping what he described as a "very strong network of professional colleagues" to advise him on his campaign.
While he's never held an elected office before, Hein ran for the 106th district in 2010 as an independent, he said.
Ultimately, Hein said he believes he's the better candidate, and that his experience as a teacher has made him intimately aware of the struggles faced by Michigan's families.
"Every day I teach, I encounter people who, their dad lost their job, or their family lost their health insurance, or they want to take this class but the school doesn't offer it," he said. "I have kids tell me they want to go to college, but they can't afford to go."
Hein's advice to voters is that, no matter who wins the race, the problems they face are man-made and can be solved by people.
"We just have to look to the future," he said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.