Childress, Couch, Martus each seek first term in state House District 69 race

Gun Rights

GENESEE COUNTY, MI — There will be a learning curve regardless of who wins the race to represent most of western Genesee County in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Candidates Adam Blake Childress (Libertarian), Jesse Couch (Republican) and Jasper Ryan Martus (Democrat) are each seeking a first term in the new 69th District, which was redrawn following the 2020 census.

The district includes the Flint Township, Swartz Creek, Flushing, Clio, Mt. Morris and Montrose areas.

Martus won the Democratic primary election, defeating Jenifer Almassy and Kenyetta V. Dotson, while Couch and Childress had no primary opposition.

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Couch is a retired business owner, Martus is a state House staffer, and Childress is an engineering design manager.

MLive and The Flint Journal in partnership with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters, are presenting the views of the candidates in contested general elections through the VOTE411.org voter guide project.

All responses in the voter guide were submitted directly by the candidate and have not been edited by the LWV, except for necessary cuts if a reply exceeded character limitations. Spelling and grammar were not corrected.

Publication of candidate statements and opinions is solely in the interest of public service and should not be considered an endorsement. The LWV never supports or opposes any candidates or political parties.

EDUCATION: What should Michigan do, if anything, to 1) provide an equitable, quality public education for all students and 2) address the shortage of teachers?

Childress: Expand school choice by working to remove or revise the “anti-aid amendment” giving parents more access to fund their child’s education. Develop an internet based public education system, pre-recorded and live online by Michigan’s best teachers, in their subjects, and for their grade level. The online school would be free to all Michigan residents including adults who desire a diploma or as an aid for Michigan home schoolers. For a fee, it could be used by individuals in other states and countries. Given the right model, it would generate revenue that we could use to subsidize the cost of educating Michigan students.

Martus: For decades, public schools have had additional responsibilities added while their resources have been cut. For our young people to succeed, they need access to high quality education. While working for the MI House Democrats in Lansing, I helped craft the Respecting Educators Package. This initiative included raising the salaries of teachers, hiring more counselors and mental health staff, and reforming the way we fund public education so that districts most in need receive better funding. I would also like to see more investments in early college and skilled trade programs at the high school level and an expansion in early education.

Couch: Did not respond.

ECONOMIC SECURITY: What policies do you support to help Michigan residents improve their economic positions?

Childress: End residential property taxes and replace them with a mortgage tax system. This would allow taxes to be amortized and collected through the monthly loan payments, end property-tax based evictions, ease the financial burden of those living on a fixed income, and would encourage more home ownership. Update the Cottage Industry Law to allow individuals to earn a living wage from their farm, homestead, or home. Improve access for those on food assistance programs to the fresh produce, dairy, and meats produced by local Michigan farmers. Create a Veteran Owned Farm program that helps returning members of our military become farm entrepreneurs

Martus: My community has lived through factories shutting down, folks moving away, and a fundamental lack of resources and respect. This can’t change overnight, but we can start to reverse this trend. The ARPA and Infrastructure Packages passed in D.C. are sending billions of dollars to Lansing. It is not a question of whether it will be spent, but where and how. I want to ensure those funds get back to Genesee County to rebuild our infrastructure, create good paying jobs, and start to bring growing industries back. Investing here in Michigan creates economic security for our neighbors and reduces supply chain issues that are a key cause of inflation.

Couch: Did not respond.

ELECTIONS: What state policies do you support regarding Michigan elections, campaign funding and voting rights?

Childress: Require valid identification for all voters. Whether we go to the bank, swipe our credit card at check out, or purchase items that have an age verification requirement, we are required to show a valid i.d.; Why should our ability to vote require any less? Introduce campaign finance reform legislation that aims to limit donations from lobbyists, corporations, and super-pacs while improving transparency. Improve debate access for all balloted candidates by removing the bi-partisan monopoly in control of our election process and making it mandatory to allow all balloted candidates to debate. Strengthen and protect direct ballot access.

Martus: Recent attacks on our democracy are not limited to D.C. They are happening at all levels of government. From an electoral standpoint, we need to elect people who will not try to erode our government institutions. At the state level, we need to strengthen protections for voting rights and make it easier for folks in poorer and rural communities to vote. Michigan ranks dead last in government transparency and oversight. We need to pass stronger ethics reform like removing Michigan legislator exemptions from FOIA and robust campaign finance reform that reduces the corrosive influence of money in politics.

Couch: Did not respond.

ENVIRONMENT/ENERGY: What actions or policies do you support to protect Michigan’s water, air and land for current and future generations? What is your position on energy efficiency and renewable energy?

Childress: It is vital that we protect our Great Lakes and other waterways, they are a precious resource and one of Michigan’s greatest assets. I support the continued effort of maintaining, protecting, and preserving our greatest resource through state legislation, national representation, and in collaboration with adjoining states and Canada. The worlds largest collective body of fresh water should not come under threat from nuclear waste, oil pipelines, mining operations, PCB’s, or other contaminates, by individuals, companies, or government entities who misuse or abuse their access to our shared resources. MI should be an energy independent state.

Martus: The ARPA and Infrastructure funds sent to Lansing are a once in a generation opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and create jobs. We can do this in a way that combats climate change. Our roads and bridges need to be built in a climate resilient way that ensures they will be more durable. Our water systems need to be improved so that everyone has access to clean water. Renewable energy like wind and solar are not only better for our environment, but they also create good paying jobs. While most folks do not use electric vehicles yet, we need to work on making it more affordable for families in the long run.

Couch: Did not respond.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: How would you address racial, economic, health and education inequities, including Michigan’s 23% of children and 17% of seniors living in poverty?

Childress: Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws need to be repealed, individuals need to be protected, and our police departments need to end the practice of “policing for profit. We need to ensure our elders have the assistance and care they need as they enter the autumn of their years. Eliminating property taxes and capping the age income taxes can be collected will help relieve some of their financial burden, however we must find a way to help the spouse, significant other, or family member providing full-time care. I supports legislation that prioritizes early detection screenings, preventative health care, and Catastrophic Insurance coverage.

Martus: While working for Congressman Kildee, I learned what a difference it makes to have leaders in government that respond to the problems of their constituents. For seniors, we need to repeal the burdensome pension tax and bring down the cost of prescription drugs. For children, we need to expand access to early education and nutrition programs. For all Michiganders, we need to address inequalities with the full power of government which means investing in communities too often overlooked and undervalued. This only happens when a community like ours has an advocate in the room.

Couch: Did not respond.

GUNS: What steps, if any, should be taken to curb gun violence in our communities?

Childress: I believe strongly in the second amendment and in its intended purpose to protect ones self, family, and property; as well as to deter a corrupt government from subjugating its people. I would support a robust background check process, that adds requirements for gun safety education, and would look at some reasonable provisions found in various “safe storage” bills being introduced in various state legislatures by both republican and democrat representatives. Mental health care must become one of Michigan’s top priorities. From in-school therapy, to out-patient programs, to psychiatric institutions; we need to re-fund mental health care.

Martus: Most commonsense gun reforms are supported by the vast majority of people regardless of their party yet are blocked by politicians beholden to the NRA. While working for the MI House Democrats, I assisted a number of state representatives with gun reform bills. I’d like to see stronger background checks, increased waiting times for purchasing weapons, responsible storage laws, and bans on high-capacity magazines. This can be done at the same time as increases in funding for mental health programs.

Couch: Did not respond.

Read more at The Flint Journal:

Neeley, Weaver answer five critical questions about their campaigns to head Flint

Your guide to every proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot in Genesee County

How to register to vote, cast an absentee ballot in Nov. 8 election in Flint

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