109th candidates debate at NMU


Photo by Kat Torreano: Rich Rossway stands opposite Sara Cambensy in Tuesday’s public debate held in the Jamrich Hall auditorium.

Von Lanier

Two candidates vying for the 109th Michigan House District Seat went head-to-head in a panel debate produced by WNMU-Public TV 13 Tuesday night in NMU’s Jamrich Hall Auditorium.

The seat became vacant on May 9 after former State Rep. John Kivela committed suicide following his second drunk driving arrest.

Kivela, who also formerly served as the mayor of Marquette, could be replaced by Republican candidate Rich Rossway, or by Democratic candidate Sara Cambensy after the Michigan House of Representatives District 1 General Election that takes place on Nov. 7. Third-party candidate Wade Roberts of the Green Party, will appear on the ballot, but did not get the 10 percent of an online voter’s poll by WLUC-TV6 required to participate in the debate.

Moderated by WLUC-TV6, with additional questions coming from The Mining Journal and Public Radio 90, the debate focused on Michigan unemployment rates and job improvement in the Upper Peninsula, job development in the Upper Peninsula through continued use of natural resources, lack of funding for public schools; healthcare, higher education in Michigan, dark stores tax legislation, the opioid epidemic and marijuana legalization.

After winning a coin toss, Rossway spoke first to the attendees, which numbered more than 80, highlighting the importance of building county roads, like County Road 595, to generate more jobs, training youth with skilled trades instead of committing them to college, and the importance of bipartisanship and “working on both sides of the aisle” to get things done in Congress.

Cambensy’s major talking points revolved around more EPA involvement in the U.P., restoring iron ore mining and timber industry with EPA regulation, the BLP conversion to natural gas, the prioritization of publicly funded schools over charter and private schools, affordable healthcare and making the U.P. into a microgrid of self-sustaining energy.

Sara Cambensy is a lifelong resident of Marquette who formerly served as a Zoning Code Enforcement Official and on the City of Marquette Planning Commission from 2009 to 2012. She was also elected to the City Charter Commission in 2011 and has served as an elected Marquette City Commissioner since 2012.

Rich Rossway is a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving during the Vietnam Era. He is also the current Vice Chairman of the City of Marquette Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and a marketing executive at ABC10 & CW5 U.P.

While candidates did differ in some of their viewpoints, there were also issues that both Cambensy and Rossway felt similar about, including more control by local government and less federal regulation on taxed spending, as well as developing the U.P. into a self-sustainable energy source, among others.

The debate was produced by WNMU-Public TV 13 with technical support provided by other local media outlets such as TV6, The Mining Journal and Public Radio 90. The moderator was Steve Asplund, an anchor at TV6. Questions were raised by Mary Wardell, a reporter from the Mining Journal, Don Ryan, a host and producer at WLUC-TV6, and Nicole Walton, a news director at Public Radio 90. The debate was recorded at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24.