The League of Women Voters Oakland Area typically hosts in-person candidate forums this time of year to prepare for the August state-wide primary.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group took its House District 37 candidate forum online, with a Monday Zoom call. The online video conference platform was open only to candidates and a moderator; there was no public participation.
Four candidates – three Democrats and one Republican – have filed to replace term-limited State Rep. Christine Greig. Farmington Hills council members Michael Bridges and Samantha Steckloff, and former Hills council member Randy Bruce, will vie for the Democratic nod; Republican Mitchell Swoboda is running unopposed.
Asked about their top three priorities, candidates across the board mentioned health care.
Bruce, a psychologist, said he’ll work to improve access especially to mental health care, which has seen funding cuts over the last 20 years and a shift from state facilities to community mental health centers and private care.
“We’re currently about 5,000 beds short in the state,” he said. “It’s a critical, critical need. When I try to get somebody hospitalized through an ER, there’s a multiple day wait to get them a bed.”
Steckloff said health care will be her “number one priority”. A breast cancer survivor, she said the cost of her health insurance was double the cost of her mortgage. She suggested a third-party public health insurance option could be quickly implemented and reduce costs by 80 percent.
“We are at a crisis right now, as we’ve seen how public health and the economy go hand in hand,” she said.
Swoboda said he wants to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs for senior citizens. He would also prioritize taking care of veterans.
Bridges would expand the Healthy Michigan program to include more of the working poor, along with expanding mental health care access in schools and to the general public.
“As revealed in the COVID-19 crisis, there’s significant racial disparities with regard to the impact of COVID-19,” he said. “We need to have public policies that reflect that.”
Candidates also answered questions regarding funding for Michigan schools, financial relief for residents affect by COVID-19, what they will do to improve racial equality and to encourage cooperation between political parties. They also weighed in on term limits and a part-time legislature.
Watch the forum: