Republicans face off in special primary to fill vacant Kent County House seat

Winner will face sole Democratic candidate in May election.
Posted at 10:08 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 22:36:29-05

GRANDVILLE, Mich. — It’s not November but Tuesday is election day in some parts of Michigan, including in Kent County where four candidates are facing off in the Republican Primary for a special election to the fill the vacant 74th District State House seat.

The 74th district, which leans Republican, is made up of communities west and north of Grand Rapids, from Grandville up to Kent City and over to Cedar Springs. It’s been vacant since then-state Rep. Mark Huizenga was elected to the senate in November.

The winner of the primary Tuesday will face off against Walker City Commissioner Carol Glanville in May, she’s running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Whoever replaces Huizenga will serve just eight months in the Legislature and will have to run again as new district maps take effect.

On the ballot Tuesday is Brian Bair, a project manager from Kent City. Justin Noordhoek, a public-school teacher and Grandville City Councilman. Robert “RJ” Regan, an entrepreneur and former state house candidate and Steven Gilbert, a Walker City Commissioner/Mayor Pro-Tem and former legislative director in the Michigan Senate.

Why are they running?

Bair: “I just want to be a citizen, servant, citizen-servant. You know, that's my label. I think I think it's time for people, everyday people like me, you know, to step in and to run and to really serve the people that they represent. We don't need more people to be part of the Lansing political machine, we need more citizens to get involved, and to, and to speak up for, you know, the cause of the Everyday Guy. And  all the freedoms and things that we enjoy, that needs to be, you know, top priority.”

Noordhoek: “I really believe that the position of state representative is intended to be temporary act of service that you do for your community and I feel that’s my story as an adult my entire life,  I have tried to serve my community, I'm a teacher, and trusted by my students and their families, to educate them. As a city council member, I've been entrusted by my community, twice, to serve them. And so I really feel that whoever serves on this position ought to do so with an eye on the public and serving. And so I entered this race, because I believe I have a proven record and the Granville City Council reaching out to residents, and truly being a public servant.”

Regan: “I was asked to. I was actually in business doing logistics work that I do in Wisconsin, when I got an urgent phone call from some parents and small business owners in Walker, and they were concerned about the special election and they know where I stand on the issues when it comes to parents and small businesses. And they were just frustrated, said, we need to have a good solid conservative to represent parents and small businesses in the district. And they were persistent.

Gilbert: “I'm running because I think that I know what kind of representation we need in Lansing on behalf of our community. I've been serving in the city of Walker as a member of the City Commission since 2017, and was elected Mayor Pro-Tem in 2019. I think I've got the experience that matters. I've been serving in Lansing, as a legislative director working on state policy. So I understand the issues that are out there. And I believe that I can bring unique perspective from our community. I've lived here my whole life, and my family's been here for generations. So I think that I know what's important to, to the folks in the 74th district.”

What separates you from the others?

Bair: “I think that my candidacy is kind of based on principles…Constitutionally limited government and peeling things back in Lansing, you know, we should have a government that is as minimalistic as possible. Let local municipalities, counties, townships, you know, and ultimately, individuals, guided by principles of a national constitution or state constitution. And let's make things as limited as possible with government."

Noordhoek: “I have a proven record. As a city council member, I have reached out to residents, I have tried to make transparency a cornerstone of my service by posting on social media, engaging residents at their door, sending postcards to residents at my own personal expense to let them know what's going on in the city. I also think that I've been pushing for transparency, more than any other candidate."

Regan: “The main thing is experience. Whoever you're sending to Lansing, you want to make sure you've got somebody with some world experience to understand and kind of navigate the shark infested waters, because Lansing can be toxic, and they need somebody with some experience. I've raised four adult children, had small businesses, started new businesses, and that's the type of person that that I believe that we need to represent the 74th district here in West Michigan.

Gilbert: “Number one is experience, right? I've, I've served in local office and have been elected Mayor Pro-Tem, by my colleagues on the City Commission. So I think those folks have acknowledged that I'm someone that brings a leadership presence. I also have served in Lansing working on state policy. So I understand what that process looks like, I know what good looks like out there and I know how you have to go about making sure that we are making good changes and working with stakeholders and working with our community to make sure that the changes that we make in state law are best reflective of the changes that need to be made.”

The number one issue?

Bair:I think the main issue that is most concerning for most people, particularly people in northern Kent County, where the 74th district dominates is freedom. It's time to get back to limited government, where people have freedoms to do things outside, you know, to be free from mandates from one particular person in the, you know, the MDHHS, and I think that is the biggest issue, it's time to roll back all mandates.”

Noordhoek: “I think it comes back to transparency, because, as I've said before, if we don't focus on keeping a light in all that our government officials are doing that nothing else really matters. People deserve to know what's going on behind the scenes, when someone is your public servant, what they're saying behind closed doors should match what they're saying out in the public.

Regan: “The number one issue I believe right now is parents, so parents feel like they're not being listened to, we see that they're being shut down at school boards. They're not happy when you're talking about the mask and vaccination mandates, and especially with this critical race theory thing that's being indoctrinating children in schools, we have to give the parents a voice. I want to make sure I'm a champion for parents in Lansing.

Gilbert: “One of the things that i think is really important is our state budget. It's the tallest task that's put before the Legislature every year and our governor, this time around proposed $74 billion in spending. And from my perspective, that's a major concern, you know, we, we look at the way that we spend those dollars, and we need to be judicious about it. I believe that we need to do a better job of making sure we're spending what we need to spend and not everything we have."