On Aug. 7, 2018, voters in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District will choose a Democratic nominee to run against Republican incumbent Rep. Paul Mitchell in November. WDET’s Pat Batcheller interviewed the three candidates who are on the Democratic primary ballot. Click on the audio player to hear the conversation and read a transcript below.
Elected experience: None
Other experience: Web designer, art director, environmental activist
Education: Michigan State University, College for Creative Studies
Campaign website: Elect Bizon 2018
Facebook: Kimberly Bizon for Congress
Why are you running?
Kimberly Bizon: People really need a representative who is actually going to represent people, not business and self-interest. I’m running to be the voice for people again, and to bring politics back to the people, working with the people and their community needs, and bringing it to nationwide representation in D.C.
How do you beat a Republican incumbent in a district that voted for him almost 2-to-1?
Kimberly Bizon: I don’t think people are really happy with Paul Mitchell’s representation. He has notoriously not been able to come out in the public and hold town halls. I happen to be a volunteer citizens lobbyist for a climate lobby group. I happened to visit his office three times in the last two years. I met with his aide for the most part. However, in May, when I went to his office in D.C., he actually didn’t even get up to shake my hand, he got up and shut the door. So I knew right there he is not a representative for the people. And, although he might disagree with the topic of climate change, he is not willing to sit down at a table and discuss issues in a bipartisan relationship, and try to find common ground. So, I don’t think he actually works for the people of District 10 or the American people.
Of the three Democrats in the primary, what makes you the best qualified?
Kimberly Bizon: I do believe I am the most progressive candidate vs. Michael McCarthy and Frank Accavitti. I think people are ready for more bold and progressive leadership here in the U.S. and here in District 10. We are running a grass roots campaign in a very large area, and of course, as you mentioned, in a red district. It’s really about the unity of people. I think people in our campaign, all our volunteers, and there’s such a huge outreach with the communities in the last nine months I’ve been on the campaign trail, just meeting those people and building relationships. I think I’ve done that better than the other two candidates.
Some Democratic candidates have made opposing President Trump a major part of their campaigns. Is being anti-Trump enough to win, or do Democrats need a more substantial message?
Kimberly Bizon: I don’t know if some Democrats are doing that as a strategy. However, for my campaign, we are not really putting down the president. There might be some things personally I dislike, especially his tweeting policy, I don’t care for that at all. However, we try to keep it more positive, community, solution-based. We talk more about health care is a human right. We’re not attacking anybody, and I think that’s what stands us out differently.
WDET listeners have identified four issues of importance to them in this election: Education, water, transportation, and gerrymandering. If elected to Congress, how would you improve our water?
Kimberly Bizon: I know that the Republican side likes to eliminate government being part of that process, they would like to deregulate. I don’t think that is the answer when it comes to our natural resources, like the Great Lakes and our drinking water. I think we need the EPA to protect us. I know that the state government and DEQ rely on the federal EPA for some of those regulations. So, I think we need to take great care of the safety of our water and our drinking water. I’m a big advocate for the environment. I believe that we need Enbridge to get out of Lake Huron and the Mackinac straits. I think it’s irresponsible of our current government not to quickly find solutions to move us quickly out of that danger zone. I do know that the Great Lakes are the second largest body of fresh water. It is a crime, in my opinion, that legislators would have passed the rights for Nestle to take so much water out of our aquifers. And that leads to competition—even with fracking—competition for that water with our farmers. We also have a lot of E. coli runoff in District 10 that needs to be identified and figure out what to do with the increase in pig farming and kennel farming up in the Thumb area. So, we have a lot of issues that we need to address. I don’t think it’s the company itself that can self-regulate that. So, I do believe we need stronger legislation in order to protect those resources.
On transportation, or transit, what would you do?
Kimberly Bizon: I was really excited when President Trump was talking about infrastructure, because we really have a lot of opportunity to make new business and opportunity for renewable and sustainable energy. Part of that includes railways and, especially in the Thumb area, tourism. Tourism is suffering around the edges of our harbor towns in the Thumb. And they have failed transportation railroad systems up there to carry out crops and stuff. And if we go ahead and invest, especially with either a wind or solar type of solution, and offer up some sort of incentives or resources in order to get those infrastructures built, I think that lends to a wonderful opportunity to solve a couple of problems in the Thumb area. Moving around people is something I’m concerned about as we grow, our population. But also moving our crops around, and tourism is very important to the Thumb area.
How would you make Michigan schools better?
Kimberly Bizon: I believe in supporting public schools and that money for each child should stay with those schools, and we need to fix our public schools with more resources. I also believe in pre-school, having maybe school start a year earlier, pre-K, in order to help with in-home child care. I also believe, because I’m in the online industry, that we really need to get on top of using programming languages as a second language for students. One of the big things we’re going to lose out to is automation in manufacturing, so we really need to stay on top of that. I also feel that we need to offer incentive programs and opportunity for skilled trade apprenticeships, and offer some relief for students for 2-year college education.
Do you believe that gerrymandering is a problem in Michigan, and if so, what would you do about it?
Kimberly Bizon: I completely respect what the Voters Not Politicians have done in getting so many signatures. I think it needs to stop. And I think that if you’re going to set boundaries, it should be done by a third party, the party of the people, not the party that’s in office or holding power. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I think the Voters Not Politicians has a wonderful ballot initiative. The citizens have requested this to go on the ballot, so I respect the fact that it should go on that ballot.
What issues haven’t we talked about that you’d like to mention?
Kimberly Bizon: Some people have said I have a lack of experience for this type of office. I’m actually president of Huronia Heights Association, my subdivision, and I’ve been on that board for over 13 years. I’ve also been the chairwoman of Concerned Associations, which is four subdivisions, where we talk about health and safety issues for the people and community in Worth Twp. And we’re able to work in a bipartisan format. I’d also like to mention that I’m a climate reality leader. There are 11,000 of us internationally. I’ve been able to network with others and find sustainable solutions for communities around the world and how we get through our climate crisis, and how we can come up with solutions for how to move off of oil dependency. One of the things my policy team has already started, in hopes that I win, is that we would like to eliminate oil-based single-use products and replace them with plant-based. And that offers a really wonderful opportunity for the farmers in lieu of the tariffs that are coming down, especially the soy tariff. So if we can produce, say, corn-based single-use products here in Michigan, and in the Thumb, we can actually manufacture them here and actually help with getting off of that plastic-based dependency and helping out our waterways. When you take a look at a problem, and you really take a look at the area and the communities, you can come up with unique solutions.
Some candidates are reaching out to voters who feel disenfranchised, running against “establishment” candidates. Could that work for you?
Kimberly Bizon: I think that when people ask me, like I’ve done many meet-and-greets now, and been around all over the Thumb area, they do ask me about my “lack of experience”. And I do tell them that I should be a breath of fresh air. There are some skill sets that I think you need to run for this type of position and to serve that position well. Those would be management skills, project leadership, things like that.