Republican State Rep. Tom McMillin and Democratic challenger Joanna VanRaaphorst, candidates for the 45th District House seat, debated local issues at a candidate forum this week.
McMillin of Rochester Hills, is seeking his third term as state representative. VanRaaphorst, of Oakland Township, is seeking her first elected office. The 45th District includes Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.
Here's a look at the candidates' answers to an audience member's question at the forum.
Question: A special interest group recently endorsed you (VanRaaphorst) and asked on a questionnaire if you would help them organize. You said yes. Is it appropriate for local residents to pay you to be state representative as well as organizing union locals?
VanRaaphorst: We have unions in Rochester and I'm very proud that I've been endorsed by who I've been endorsed by. If you're talking about the teachers, the people who teach our children here in Rochester belong to a union. My twin sister who is a teacher belongs to a union. Of course I would support them; that is the entity that supports the teachers that run our public schools — to not work with them I think would be ridiculous. I proudly say that I'm for unions. Maybe that's why I'm a moderate democrat because that's one of my core beliefs.
McMillin: As your state representative, if I go back I will not be using my time for union-organizing or community-organizing. I'll focus on turning the state around like we have been.
VanRaaphorst: Tom, you have been financed by for-profit charter schools; we don't have a for-profit charter schools here. You've been financed by untested for-profit cyber schools and we don't have those here. If you're going to talk about who you're supporting, let's talk about who is financing our campaign. You're into transparency and I think that's terrific. If you want transparency I have a list of who's donated to my campaign. In 2010 you had eight local people donate from Rochester and Rochester Hills and Oakland Township; they had deep pockets but it was eight people. As of today, I have about 212 local people. I think that is key to our election: if you want to support and be an advocate for your local community, which means your public schools, Crittenton, Oakland University and the small businesses here and the community leaders, you need to be supported by them.
McMillin: I am not going to make apologies for businesses that are not within the district that want to contribute to me, small businesses outside the district that appreciate us turning around the state and my CPA background. Yes, some folks that want choice and want to help kids make sure that we get a good education are appreciative of what we've done. For decades we have let these kids go to failing schools and not given them an option. I'm proud that I was spearheading the effort and really helping the effort to make sure we gave options to parents who were in failing districts.
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