Local candidates running for Michigan’s House of Representatives and Senate gathered at the library in Traverse City Monday. They talked with voters about how they’ll make a difference for northern Michigan children and their families.
Candidates in attendance included Betsy Coffia, running for the House’s 103rd District, representative John Roth and challenger Cathy Albro running for the 104th District and Barbara Conley running for the State Senate’s 37th District. Representative’s Jack O’Malley (103rd) and John Damoose (37th) were not in attendance.
The candidate forum was put on by a public policy group called Michigan’s Children. They’ve put on candidate forums all over the state for the past 20 years. And the lack of funding for childcare was the reoccurring theme at Monday’s forum.
“Obviously it is a funding problem, and we have to make sure that the funding is there,” Conley claims.
Candidate for the 104th District Cathy Albro says the lack of accessibility to childcare hurts more than just children and their families.
“This affects our economy, not being able to take care of our children in a very high-quality way,” Albro states.
All candidates at Monday’s forum answered questions about how they can make the state’s childcare system more accessible and affordable. Candidates also talked about growing mental health services for children.
The only Republican and sitting State Representative at Monday’s forum, John Roth, went back and forth with candidates. They questioned what they say is a lack of funding for day care centers and childcare workers.
“Your budget shows your priorities. You need to elect leaders who understand that you have to invest in your kids,” says 103rd District Candidate, Betsy Coffia.
Representative Roth responds saying he would support a lot of the suggestions to boost Michigan’s childcare system but is concerned about how it will get paid.
“Prioritizing what we want to spend it on is extremely important, but when you ask me to add more funding. Tell me what we’re willing to cut. What areas do you want to cut? Roads, healthcare,” Representative Roth asks.
The Program Director for Michigan’s Children, Teri Banas, says the goal of Monday’s forum was to educate voters on candidates.
“We see this as a really important opportunity to showcase what people in communities like Traverse City have to say about the needs of young children and their families,” Banas states.
One voter says they’re glad for Monday’s forum and feel more confident about which candidate will do the most for northern Michigan families.
“I really felt like we got a pretty good sense on where the candidates stand on early childhood.”