BY MICHAEL WALTON firstname.lastname@example.org and BRIAN McGILLIVARY email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Two local lawmakers are eyeing the same higher political office in Lansing.
State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, and State Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, plan to run for Michigan’s 37th Senate District seat in 2014.
Schmidt said he’ll officially announce his candidacy in the coming weeks. He said he first wants to meet with voters and community leaders from the 37th District to discuss what issues matter to them, including the economy, jobs, education and school funding equity.
“It’s not about what’s best for me,” Schmidt said. “It’s about what’s best for (voters) and the state of Michigan.”
MacMaster announced his candidacy last week. He identified road funding, health care and protection of the Great Lakes as some of the most pressing issues facing Michigan. He said running against a fellow state House Republican in Schmidt is a “non-issue.”
“I’m looking at the record of my votes over the past few years and want to maintain that,” he said.
Both candidates hope to fill the seat of state Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, who announced this month plans to vacate his post after his current term expires, but they could face a third challenger from within their own party. State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey, is rumored to be interested in the nomination.
Foster could not be reached for comment.
Randy Bishop, who challenged Walker in the 2010 Republican primary as a Tea Party candidate, now co-owns a conservative talk radio station and said he has no intention to seek the nomination. Bishop said he expects Schmidt, MacMaster and Foster all to challenge for the open seat.
Among Democrats, Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes, who unsuccessfully ran for the 37th District seat against former state Sen. Jason Allen in 2002, said several people have contacted him about his interest in pursuing the seat. Estes said he hasn’t ruled it out.
Estes said he expects all three sitting Republican state representatives to pursue the seat because it’s a stepping stone to higher office. The winner will lock up a legislative seat for the next eight years.
MacMaster, a former television weatherman, is currently in the middle of his second term in the state House of Representatives.
Schmidt served on the Grand Traverse County Commission before his election to the Michigan House. He’ll be term-limited out of the House when his third term expires at the end of 2014.
Grand Traverse County Commissioner Larry Inman and former county Commissioner Rob Hentschel will square off in the Republican nomination battle for Schmidt’s current office.
Schmidt said he expects additional candidates to enter that race before the primary election, which is scheduled for Aug. 5.
“It’s still early for them,” Schmidt said.