ALPENA - A cozy residential setting might not bring Michigan's gubernatorial race to mind, unless Democratic candidate Mark Schauer is standing in the dining room laying out his vision for the state.
This was the case Friday when the former United States Congressman made a stop in Alpena on a trip through Northeast Michigan, speaking at Alpena County Democratic Party Chairwoman Linda Ayres' house about what he intends to do if elected in 2014. Education is his top priority, he said, and he plans to undo Gov. Rick Snyder's funding cuts to public schools and universities. Keeping and bringing in high-talent, high-wage jobs, ensuring communities are strong and provide a high quality of life and eliminating policies that divide the state were just a few of the goals he mentioned.
Schauer got into politics after running an agency much like Northeast Michigan Community Services Agency, he said. He had worked in urban planning before that, and ran for the state House of Representatives to fight for the same people his agency helped. After six years in the House, he served in the state Senate until he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2008, serving a single term there.
"The first bill I voted on was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act," he said, adding he also voted for the Affordable Care Act.
Schauer denounced many laws Snyder signed, championed or both. He criticized cuts to education, the pension tax on seniors and his signing Right-to-Work legislation passed by lame-duck state lawmakers, or as Schauer put it, "in the dark of night." He spared no criticism for a $1.8 billion tax cut for Michigan businesses, a move Schauer claimed did little for Michigan workers.
"Rick Snyder's economy is not working," he said. "This is not what people thought they were getting."
Snyder's moves to help charter and cyber schools, many of which are run by for-profit companies, doesn't sit well with Schauer either, he said. The next governor needs to fulfill the state's constitutional promise to provide a quality education for every child. And when they graduate high school, they need to be able to afford secondary education of some kind.
"That makes us better as a state and more competitive," he said.
Communities have been impacted by the Snyder administration's cuts to revenue sharing, and are forced to either shift the tax burden elsewhere or cut back on public safety and fire departments, Schauer said.
Other state laws and policies have harmed Michigan as well, Schauer said, including those denying benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. He later added he would support any push by state voters to repeal Michigan's 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
"I don't support discrimination of any type, and I certainly don't support discrimination based on who an individual loves," he said. "I think we're better than that as a state, and the private sector figured out a long time ago to value talent and diversity."
Michigan's character is at stake in November, Schauer said, and he urged everyone in the house to get out the vote. He'll be making stops today in Atlanta and Onaway to spread the message, and will return to the region as his campaign progresses.
Audience member Richard Neuman said he agreed with much of what Schauer had to say, especially his criticisms of Snyder's policies.
"Snyder's doing the wrong things for Michigan," he said, adding he has high hopes for Schauer.