Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 12, 2012

Green party challenges GOP incumbents

Budgets a big issue in County Commissioner race

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Commission candidate Herb Lemcool practices "passive" campaigning; that is, he slaps a campaign sign on his car and talks to prospective voters.

County Commissioner Christine Maxbauer hasn't even matched Lemcool's gentle campaign efforts in her own commission district.

The two incumbent Republican Grand Traverse County Commissioners face challenges from Green Party candidates Josef Connolly and Tom Mair in District 3 and District 2, respectively.

"She's been elected three times, she's probably pretty confident with her own seat on the commission," Mair said of Maxbauer. "But as I talk to people in the Second District there are a lot of people dissatisfied with her service. I think her popularity is at its lowest."

Mair said he's gearing up his campaign and will be distributing literature and knocking on doors with supporters between now and the Nov. 6 general election.

Maxbauer, who twice defeated Mair by more than two-to-one margins, is doing much of her campaigning in District 1 in support of Dan Lathrop, a republican who is challenging the county board's lone Democrat, Ross Richardson.

"I'm a Republican and I'm campaigning for all Republicans," Maxbauer responded when asked about her own campaign activity.

The county budget is the biggest difference between Maxbauer and Mair. Maxbauer supported service cuts, layoffs, and privatizing services over use of the county's rainy day fund to balance the budget.

"I'm told administration suggests we once again spend more money than we take in in revenue and it has to stop," Maxbauer said.

Mair said he favors a mix of across-the-board pay cuts, along with some use of the county's fund balance to address a potential shortfall. He doesn't believe that one or two programs should accept most of the financial pain from budgets cuts.

"People providing public services is basically what the county does," Mair said. "I want to be creative and avoid anyone losing their jobs."

Lemcool also opposes dipping into the county fund balance, but wouldn't say what programs he would cut.

"I've not seen the budget, so I can't tell you that," Lemcool said. "We'll wait to see the whole budget and prioritize from there."

Lemcool said he also expects replacement of the Cass Road Bridge over the Boardman Dam to be a "hot button" issue, and the county board needs to discuss if it should take over the road commission. Lemcool said he doesn't have a position on either matter yet.

Connolly said he's been knocking on voters' doors and listening to their concerns.

"In my neighborhood and in this district there are issues that are not being met. There is no infrastructure to meet the growing number of people and businesses," Connolly said.

If elected, Connolly said he would place greater emphasis on alternative and public transportation systems. He also wants to grow the economy in a sustainable, balanced, and environmentally sound way.

Connolly also would like to adopt a countywide ban on a system of drilling for gas known as horizontal hydrological fracturing, or hydro-fracking.

He doesn't have enough information to take a position on the budget, but would like to look into the large number of foreclosures by the county treasurer for non-payment of taxes.

"In this economy a lot of people are struggling right now," Connolly said.

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