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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

Economy and job creation take center stage in legislative races


Southeast Michigan s state legislative candidates include a Hillsdale County Democrat who believes she is the illegitimate daughter of John F. Kennedy s sister and Queen Elizabeth II s father, as well as a Monroe County member of the U.S. Taxpayers Party who feels Republicans aren t conservative enough.

No matter their heritage or political views, improving the economy and creating jobs are common priorities for Michigan House of Representative candidates for seats in Monroe, Hillsdale, and Lenawee counties. Michigan s unemployment rate was at 8.7 percent in September, topped only by Rhode Island at 8.8 percent.

It s something that s so important to the area, said Jean Kennedy-Windsor of Reading, Mich., 68, a teacher who says she accidentally discovered her parentage which is listed on her campaign Web site but declined to elaborate before the election.

Said state Rep. Kate Ebli (D., Monroe): My top priority is creating jobs and creating them now. She s running in the 56th District.

Ms. Ebli, 50, who also said she is working to cut business taxes and government spending, is being challenged by two other candidates for the 56th District seat in eastern Monroe County, the only southeast Michigan legislative race with more than two contenders.

John Eleniewski, 39, a U.S. Taxpayers Party member from Frenchtown Township who works in wholesale fuels, said he initially sought the Republican nomination but feels the two major parties corrupt good morals.

Reducing state government spending, not advancing a party agenda, and not increasing the size and scope of government, are his top priorities, Mr. Eleniewski said by e-mail.

Ms. Ebli s other challenger, Republican Jean Dahm, 47, who works in business development for an information technology firm, said she wants to boost incentives for existing and new businesses. She said Ohio, for example, has cut taxes, including eliminating corporate and franchise income taxes by 2010, making it more attractive than Michigan.

We have to be competitive, and we can t even compete with the people next door to us, much less the rest of the country, said Ms. Dahm, who also is a registered nurse.

Ms. Kennedy-Windsor, who also wants health-care reform, is running against Kenneth Kurtz, 61, a Republican from Coldwater, Mich., and former funeral home operator, for the 58th District seat representing Hillsdale and Branch counties. The winner will fill a seat being vacated by Rep. Bruce Caswell (R., Pittsford), who is serving the last of three terms.

Besides reforming corporate taxes, Mr. Kurtz said, Michigan needs to reduce restrictions imposed on businesses.

Michigan has lost a lot of [businesses] to Ohio because of the tax system, for one thing, and regulations, said the longtime business owner.

State Rep. Kathy Angerer (D., Dundee) is squaring off against Frank Moynihan, a Republican from Milan, for the 55th District seat in western Monroe County. Mr. Moynihan declined to be interviewed.

Ms. Angerer, 50, said among her economy-related priorities are beefing up Michigan s education system by changing curriculum and better preparing the next work force.

We are setting the stage to have one of the best education systems in the country, she said.

Rollin Township Republican Emma Jenkins, 76, is challenging state Rep. Dudley Spade (D., Tipton) in the state s 57th District, which covers the majority of Lenawee County.

Ms. Jenkins said she wants to decrease taxes along with the state government s budget, reversing the recent tide of business defections.

I feel it s due mainly to the high taxes that our government has put in place, she said.

Mr. Spade, 52, a Democrat, said he has gone against his party s wishes several times in favor of Lenawee County interests. He voted against putting a tax on warehousing services because it could chase such businesses a few miles across the state border, he said.

Lenawee County has felt the pain of jobs leaving the area, just as the rest of the state of Michigan has, he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:jmckinnon@theblade.comor 419-724-6087.

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