Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Rumble on the Southbelt (2) — Meet the Contenders

In an overwhelmingly Republican district such as the Michigan State House 72nd, the primary race is the deciding factor. In its mix of old suburban/urban, money, new suburban and agriculture (see earlier post), the district serves up as a Petri dish for current and future Republican politics.

The current battle three very different leading candidates, along with two minor players. By insider accounts, the race is extremely tight, with significant numbers of voters still undecided. Each of the major candidates exemplifies a different dimension in today’s Michigan Republican party. Who has been doing what with what will come clear this weekend with the release of the financial reports.

Below the fold we’ll take up the candidates, by their bio, platform, social conservative leanings (if any), and campaign.

Linda Steil

Bio. By most lights she is the front-runner. As the wife of the current representative Glen Steil Jr., and daughter-in-law to former State Senator Glen Steil, Linda has some in-built connections. Her endorsement list includes Chuck Yob, and local businessmen Tommy Brann, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. In the primary season, she and her husband maxed out their contributions to McCain. Interestingly for some one running for State House, she did not give anything in the 2006 cycle.

Platform. Steil is clearly the representative of the broad party, with its tilt towards the economic conservative views. Her issues are strongest on economics: right to work, end personal property tax, privatize, offer incentive to select growing industries. The rest is bland, though we do learn her parents have been married 58 years, and she packs heat.

Social Conservative Leanings. Although one would think that her role as a stay-at-home mom might give her some status, this is rather muted on her web site. The best the comes up is an allusion to walking the aisle at a Baptist church as a youth.

Campaign. Her campaign brings some seriously deep pockets. However there is little evidence of upkeep on the web site. She maintains a Facebook page (4 friends), but again, not active. There have been reports of e-mail campaigns, and presumably of mailers. This will be an old school campaign.

Justin Amash

Bio. Like Steil, Amash brings connections, in this case, the family business. A young lawyer (UM 2005), he works for Varnum and as a consultant for one of the family businesses, Michigan Industrial Tools. His residence on a golf course speaks of the family prosperity. Amash picks up the theme of “principled, consistent conservative” — this is movement stuff, with a strong libertarian bias (did we mention his undergrad degree is economics?). Not surprisingy, he sided with Ron Paul, and hammers the individualist, economic theme.

Platform. For Amash, it is a cause to “Take Back..” The fare is rather straight-forward Libertarian. In practice what this appears to mean is the return of many services to the local level. As to programs, he emphasizes the role of liberty, and shrinkage of government. In distinction from Steil, he would advocate the end of economic incentives.

Social Conservative Leanings. Although naturally from the money crowd, Amash is a graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High, and has made some real in-roads into the Dutch conservative set in Gaines Township. There is minimal nod to social conservative themes on his web site.

Campaign. Amash opened big, with a strong Facebook showing (but then nothing since the Fourth — too busy campaigning?), and some smart-set e-mail ads. The web site itself looks cluttered, too DIY. This suggests a campaign big on the idea of running, but less on the execution.

Ken Yonker

Bio. A Caledonia native, Yonker brings the deepest roots to the district. A graduate of MSU, owner of a landscaping business, and school board member. As a school board member and defender of public schools, he would be considered “liberal” by many in the GOP. A better way to think of his campaign is community-centered. The web site testifies to numerous endorsers from local political offices and from local businesses, mostly in the Caledonia and Gaines neighborhood. He is a Huckabee Republican.

Platform. The campaign is built around the theme of “Building a New Michigan.” For Yonker that means a business-focus. Of the candidates his is the loosest platform: Job Creation, Education, Values. Very little is spelled out. The campaign is asking voters to vote on who he is, rather than a specific platform.

Social Conservative Leanings. Yonker is upfront about the role of faith in his life. A graduate of South Christian HS, he has a natural appeal to the Dutch community of Gaines and Caledonia. Adding to his social conservative creds has been the backing by the Voorhees clan. In his mix of social conservative leanings and some practical politics, he resembles another South Christian graduate, Jerry Kooiman.

Campaign. With fewer resources, the campaign has emphasized its community focus. They maintain a list of over 200 endorsers on their web site. Along with the traditional direct mail, the campaign has also set up a Facebook account, and a blog.

David Elias

Bio. Campaign activist on several campaigns (Hardiman, Land), Elias interned with the local ofie of Senator Abraham. He works as a Rural Letter Carrier. He lists his own influences as talk radio. His campaign theme has been “send the common man to Lansing.”

Platform. Elias is a conservative populist, giving special attention to veterans and homeland security. In one sense the salad basket of issues resembles that of Amash, but without a strong sense of philosophic orientation.

Social Conservative Leanings. A definite pro-gun nationalist. More populist than anything else.

Campaign. A very hard-to-read web site (why, oh why does any one use reverse type?)


Filed under: Elections, , , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. Alec says:

    This race is a fun one to watch. Yonker is by far the best option here. Steil has a name but no resume. Amash has a resume bought and paid for by Daddy. Yonker actually has accomplished something on his own and has made a name for himself. Plus he’s a good guy. Shouldn’t be close on election day.

  2. Rob VanderKlok says:

    I don’t understand how Steil could be considered the presumed winner since she clearly has no background for a job in the legislature and folks I’ve spoken with are turned off by the Steil family trying to live off the Senior Glenn’s name. She seems to have a nice young family and, frankly, I feel terrible taking her away from her children and sending her to Lansing for 90 hours a week, not that she would be the best candidate for the job. She is the most well spoken of the Steil candidates.

    As for Mr. Amash, we’ve met and I was not impressed with his “life story” either. He flirted with a career in law then jumped on the family business payroll in time to run for office. Something tells me a person should work for and earn their place in the world. At least that is what I think they should do in the legislature.

    Yonker may be a “public school ” guy but his materials don’t tell me he is a liberal by any means. What he lacks in details are made up for in a lifetime of experience. He raised a family, he owns a business, has run for election and won. As anyone knows, you can have the best “plan” for your trip to Lansing but you are only one of 110 in the house. You better have strong beliefs and stick to those. Empty numbers based on assumptions are silly. And they don’t work. See Dick DeVos’ 75 page plan to turn Michigan around.

  3. Harris says:

    Steil is not the presumed winner, but the front-runner, especially for the indifferent voter. For better or worse, brand recognition plays big with lots of voters. Also, she seems willing to carry the water for the broad party faction (read: Chamber) of the Michigan GOP. My guess, that faction is especially strong in Cascade, and plays a significant role in Kentwood.

  4. Kirk Vanhouten says:

    The 3 serious contenders are Yonker, Steil and Amash.

    I’ve seen Amash’s literature, he’s an ideologue, nothing indicates much of a problem solver. Politicians like him like to pick fringe political fights and see their names in the paper. Kent County already has one Dave Agema and I think that’s enough.

    Linda Steil’s literature points out that she’s a Realtor, but she’s not licensed- in Michigan. I check her home state of Arizona’s website, and I see she’s still licensed there through next year! I guess she has an escape plan.

    Needless to say, I’m voting for Ken Yonker. He’s honest and straight forward and has actually had to work for a living. He’ll be able to work with people throughout the community, not just the GOP establishment, which, with the Dems is 1/2 the problem in Lansing.

  5. I hear people are trying to ban smoking so that has me enraged. How do these candidates stand on that issue? The Younker fella knocked on my door and I’ve recieved mail from the Justin Amash campaign. Worked with someone who was friends with the Amash father and he is an Obama supporter so their may be hope for Justin. I wanted to vote in the Sheriff race so I may be voting in the primary on the GOP side. Never thought that would happen. If I do I’m certainly not going to vote for the wife/daughter in law. This isn’t Europe where your position is bequeathed to the next generation. THat is terrible. Thank you for the analysis. The press only reports fundraising numbers and doesn’t get into the details. I’m glad I know about her license. Shows a real commitment to MIchigan. That was sarcasm.

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