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Published: Wednesday, 10/20/2004

Surgeon, farmer battle for Michigan's 7th District

Renier Renier

Michigan's 7th District congressional race pits a surgeon against an organic farmer.

Dr. Joe Schwarz, 66, a moderate Republican from Battle Creek, is taking on Democrat Sharon Renier, 48, of Munith, in the contest to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Nick Smith (R., Addison) in a district that stretches from Battle Creek to suburban Ann Arbor and includes Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Jackson counties.

Ms. Renier has never held an elected office, while Dr. Schwarz has served on the Battle Creek city commission and as the city's mayor and spent 16 years as a state senator.

Despite Dr. Schwarz's experience and financial superiority, Ms. Renier is confident about her chances of winning.

She said she spent only $2,000 in the primary campaign yet bested two other candidates, gaining 54 percent of the vote.

"My opponent has 84 times more money than me, but I've been working him under the table. All I use is business cards. I don't have any [yard] signs or do any radio [advertisements]. But I've knocked on 40,000 doors."

Schwarz Schwarz

Dr. Schwarz, who lost a 2002 primary race for governor, said he's not taking anything for granted.

"I always run like I'm 10 points down," said Dr. Schwarz, who bested five candidates in the Republican primary, including Mr. Smith's son, Brad.

For Dr. Schwarz, who calls himself an old-school Republican in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, his primary issues include national security, health care, the economy, and education.

In health care, "the present model is unsustainable; 45 million people do not have access to health care," he said.

Dr. Schwarz calls for universal access to health care by doubling to 1,200 the number of federally-supported health centers.

On the economy, Dr. Schwarz said the country needs to put more money into higher education to create a workforce that competes with intense global competition.

"The traditional shop-floor jobs aren't coming back - not as we knew them," he said.

As for education, Dr. Schwarz said the government needs to provide more support to the country's universities, in particular Michigan schools that are underfunded.

"We should invest whatever it takes," he said.

For Ms. Renier, health care, jobs, and education are her biggest issues.

She believes a national health care program is needed. To pay for it, she would like to see people who make more than the $87,900 Social Security contribution cap have their exemption revoked.

"You and I are being taxed on 100 percent of our income. If they just paid their fair share, [we could cover the cost]," she said.

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