KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The Aug. 3 election is a week from Tuesday, and a rare open state Senate seat on the ballot in Kent County is drawing three familiar names in Michigan politics.
State Rep. Mark Huizenga (R–Walker), State Rep. Tommy Brann (R–Wyoming) and former State Rep. and current Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green are all vying for the GOP nomination and to represent the 28th district, which covers several cities in Kent County north and west of Grand Rapids.
The seat has been open since January when former State Sen. Peter McGregor was sworn-in as Kent County treasurer.
As far as fundraising goes, Rep. Mark Huizenga is leading the pack. Huizenga’s campaign has garnered the support of several prominent West Michigan families, including the DeVoses and Van Andels.
The former mayor of Walker and small business owner tells FOX 17 he wants to make sure that people are getting back to work and that taxpayer money is being put to good use. He calls himself the “nerd of the House” who deeply cares about budgets and job creation.
“Let’s be smart with taxpayer dollars. Let's be good with government dollars, and right now we're in a strange situation with so many dollars coming from the federal government that we have to use those dollars judiciously and make sure that they're there for the right reasons, to help people,” Huizenga told FOX 17.
State Rep. Tommy Brann meanwhile is also touting his small business background. As the owner of Brann’s Steakhouse & Grille chain, he wants to bring that experience to the Legislature’s upper house.
“This is full of experiences; after 50 years I've seen it all,” Brann told FOX 17 during an interview in his Wyoming restaurant.
Brann has drawn criticism from his two opponents for supporting a statewide mask mandate and for co-sponsoring a House bill to expand LGBTQ protections in the state’s civil rights law. Brann says he wants to give more funding to law enforcement and K–12 education.
“I'd like to take some of the higher ed money and bring it back to K–12 and revenue sharing, and I really want to focus on K–12 because I think that's really so important,” Brann said.
Current Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green wants to head back to the Capitol because he doesn’t think enough people are stepping up and calls Lansing a “mess.” Green was term limited out of his leadership position in the state House in 2010.
“Taking action is very important to me, and when I was the whip, we stopped things that didn't make sense; we got things done that did make sense. I don't see a lot of that; especially last year was terrible,” Green said. “I wasn't planning on getting back into the Legislature, but I really saw a need. People are really hurting right now.”
The three GOP candidates also label "election integrity" as a pressing issue, and they all support a controversial 39-bill election package currently in the Senate.
Green is calling for a “forensic” audit of the 2020 election and Brann supports one, despite a sitting GOP senator’s report that deemed one “not justifiable,” after finding no evidence of widespread fraud in Michigan.
“I really want to nip this issue in the bud, and there's 50 percent of the population really concerned about the election integrity. So we have to restore confidence; we can't really go forward unless we do that,” Green said when asked why he thought another audit is necessary.
“[Sen. Ed McBroom] did leave a little room that there was some fraud; he didn't...he didn't shut the door on that. So I'm not against a forensic audit; if it comes up, I will vote for that,” Brann said. "But I don't know if leadership would take that up," he added.
“Every time there's an election, over 200 election audits are conducted by the Secretary of State, and those election results have not indicated that there's fraud,” Huizenga said.
The primary for the special election takes place Tuesday, Aug. 3. While the district is historically red, the winner of the GOP primary will face the Democratic party nominee, either Gidget Groendyk or former Kent County Commissioner Keith Courtade.