Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 8, 2010

Candidates campaign for 35th state Senate

Former priest takes on state representative


TRAVERSE CITY — A former priest with a few thousand dollars left in his campaign collection plate will take on a wealthy, retired banker who self-financed his campaign to represent the 35th state Senate District.

Democrat Roger Dunigan, of Leelanau County's Elmwood Township, a retired community mental-health director, takes on Republican Darwin Booher, a third-term state representative, retired bank vice president, and farmer from Evart in Osceola County.

A third candidate, Libertarian Allitta Hren, of Big Rapids, took a temporary job in Florida and won't campaign, her husband said. She was not available for comment.

The winner will represent 11 counties that include Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee and Kalkaska.

"We haven't debated yet, but there are very marked differences between our positions," Dunigan said.

Dunigan is pro-choice on abortion, favors public financing of elections, and wants the state to look at legalizing and taxing marijuana. He's against a Republican proposal to cut state employees' wages by 5 percent, and prefers to consolidate agencies and cut "the high cost" of administrative overhead.

He also favors a graduated state income tax.

"If you went to a graduated income tax, you could generate up to $1 billion in revenue, and 90 percent of the people would be paying less in taxes," Dunigan said. "I've talked to a lot of higher-earning people, and they believe they should be paying more."

Booher is pro-life and one of those higher-earning people, but would rather dump the income tax altogether. He said the state needs to completely restructure its tax system and consider replacing its business and income taxes with a 9.75 percent sales tax on all retail goods and services.

But before the Legislature does anything else, it needs to get its budget in order, Booher said.

"We have to organize this and get accountability and oversight over all 28 (department) budgets," Booher said. "Then, we target the things we think will grow the economy and jobs in this state because we are not going to be given very long to show the people we can do something about this economy."

Booher and Dunigan agree the state corrections budget should be trimmed by changing the state's sentencing guidelines, and both pledge to work toward ending partisan bickering among officials in statewide elected offices.

"We have to throw all that partisan stuff away and we have to work together to turn the state around," Booher said.

Both candidates also said they would support requiring more frequent filing of campaign finance reports, require nonprofit political groups to report donations, and develop some level of personal financial disclosure for state elected officials.

Dunigan raised $17,000 for the race and had about $4,600 on hand at the end of August. He supports public funding of elections.

"The huge amount of money that goes into the political process by special interests impacts voting by legislators," he said.

Booher raised more than $146,000, of which $107,000 came from his own pocket. He had $68,000 on hand.

"People know I fund my own campaign," Booher said. "If people want to give to me, that's up to them."