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TRAVERSE CITY — A political newcomer is challenging a two-time incumbent as both seek a seat in the state House of Representatives.

Democratic candidate Zach Larson and state Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, both want to represent the 103rd District, and while Rendon is running for her third term, Larson is taking his first shot at elected office.

Larson said he’s running to give voters in his district an alternative, and that he aims to be transparent and available to his constituents as he tries to make an impact on important issues to the district. He doesn’t fully accept any party platform and his stances tend toward the moderate, as he views voters’ desires as more important than any party affiliation.

“Hopefully if elected I can provide the constituents with what they need and not focus on party-line issues,” he said.

Families, small businesses, tourism and farming depend on clean water, Larson said. He wants to hold the Department of Defense accountable for cleaning up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance contamination near Grayling.

Learning from home means the district’s students need broadband internet now more than ever, and there are plenty of gaps in coverage, Larson said. He wants to ensure Michigan puts its CARES Act funding for expanding high-speed internet to use in the 103rd.

Rendon said she’s running for another term because she’s enjoyed getting to know, working with and representing the district’s residents. She loves the region’s natural beauty and respects its residents’ business acumen, from its lakeside resort owners to dairy farmers, loggers and more.

Getting through the COVID-19 pandemic requires an important balancing act between getting people back to work and kids back to school, and keeping everyone safe, Rendon said. She favors a plan that gives each county more authority over its response and wants to shift away from at-home and hybrid learning models to in-person learning once that’s possible.

Rendon said there’s too much focus on fear and morbidity in pandemic reporting and not enough about the positives. Doctors have learned a lot about the disease from the early days, and a good share of Michiganders who died had underlying health issues. She’s known several who had COVID-19 and had mild to no symptoms or recovered after a short hospital stay.

“What we’re also seeing is a lot of people who test positive are either displaying no symptoms at all or the symptoms are such that they can stay home and get through the virus and be good as gold within the two-week period, so I think people are learning how to live with it, we’ve learned a lot through this,” she said.

Returning some of that decision-making back to the people includes business owners who know best how to serve their customers while keeping them safe, Rendon said.

Threats to freedom of religion and gun rights had Rendon concerned as well, she said. Students should be able to pray at school if they choose, and protecting gun rights is about self-defense, not just hunting. She wants to change concealed carry permit rules to exempt retired law officers from needing one, and criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for vetoing past gun bills.

The 103rd District covers Crawford, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Roscommon and Ogemaw counties, maps show.

 

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