Candidate profiles: 101st House of Representatives 

August 2, 2020

Candidate profiles: 101st House of Representatives 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Primary Election takes place on Aug. 4. During the election, nominations are made from both the Republican and Democrat parties to decide who each respective party’s candidate will be in the November General Election. These profiles will feature the candidates who are running in contested races. 

Both Republican and Democrat parties have contested races for the nomination for the next State Representative for the 101st House of Representatives District, which includes Mason, Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau counties. 

Republican Party race: 

Incumbent Jack O’Malley of Lake Ann, Benzie County, is currently in his first two-year term. He is being challenged, for the second time, by Carolyn Cater of Ludington. In 2016, O’Malley defeated Cater by an 85% margin, 12,396 to 2,212. O’Malley defeated his Democrat opponent, Kathy Wiejaczka, by a 57.7 margin in the 2016 General Election. 

Democrat Party race:

Beth McGill-Rizer of Victory Township, Mason County and Cary Urka of Brethren, Manistee County, are running for the nomination to be the Democrat party’s candidate. MCP was unable to make contact with Mr. Urka, who has run for the 101st District several times, affiliating himself with both parties. In 2018 Urka ran for the democratic nomination for the 35th State Senate seat, and lost. 

This interview includes questions and answers from all three of the candidates MCP was able to contact. However, McGill-Rizer is not running against either O’Malley or Cater at this time, because it is a primary election. The winner of the two parties’ races will then run against each other during the General Election in November. 

MCP: Why are you running for election/re-election for State Representative?

Rep. Jack O’Malley

O’Malley: First, I believe that I have represented the constituents of the 101st quite well during my first term in office. But furthermore, my nearly 40 years in radio in northern Michigan has given me the ability to really tap in to how people of the area think and feel. With this, I believe that I have succeeded in truly being the voice of the people of the 101st district, and I want to keep being that voice.

Cater: To undo all the legislation that “Big Tax Jack” has introduced in the House in Lansing. That’s how bad he’s been for the 101st District. I can’t even innumerate how bad of a representative he has been for the 101st. There’s no fight in him.” 

McGill-Rizer: I have a vision for our district. Michigan’s economy needs to work for everyone. I want our businesses to open and our kids back in school. None of this can be at the risk of people’s lives. We can replace livelihoods, but we cannot replace children, parents, grandparents, spouses, and friends’ lives.

MCP: What is the role of State Representative? 

Cater: To protect our freedoms and liberties, which “Big Tax Jack” has failed to do. Constitutional, fiscal responsibility.

McGill-Rizer: Our state representatives enact new laws and amend or repeal legislation. They provide oversight and serve on committees. Representatives are responsible for lowering or increasing taxes and appropriating funds. Most importantly, it is to help the people of the district.

O’Malley: Not to be redundant, but the roll of a state representative is to be the voice of the people in your district and fight for them each and every day down in Lansing. I also believe my job is to keep people informed, and I have tried to do that with my continuous updates on my Facebook page. Throughout committees, legislative sessions, and meetings with various stakeholders, there are plenty of opportunities for northern Michigan to benefit or unfortunately, get taken advantage of. My job is to make sure that the interests of my district are always brought out during all discussions and negotiations. Northern Michigan is certainly a hike from our capitol city, but I am proud every time that I get to step into the chamber and cast my vote on legislation that helps benefit the people of the 101st.

Carolyn Cater

MCP: Please talk about your background, work experience, education, personal life:

McGill-Rizer: As a high school student, I attended the Capital Area Career Center and graduated as a medical assistant.

I attended community college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. My professional experience was in healthcare. I’ve owned a small business, and I’ve served as a community activist.

I live in Victory Township where I’m the Democratic precinct delegate. I currently serve on the Mason County Democrat County Committee.

I’m married, and my husband and I have three adult children and three grandchildren.

O’Malley: I worked in radio broadcasting for almost 40 years. I am proud of the fact that in that time I got to know the people of the North and they got to know me. I never graduated from college, but I did attend a trade school, so I understand the discussion that not everyone wants or needs a college education to be successful, but post high school education is important. My personal life is nothing too exciting. I am married, have three children and two grandkids.

Cater: Studied international relations, geography and city planning, and Spanish language/culture from Grand Valley State University. Father was born in Manistee and raised from the Kaleva, Norman Dixon, Brethren areas. Mother’s side relocated with her family and grandfather’s business, Harrington Tool Company, from Detroit to Ludington, so I’m northern Michigan blood. You have a fiscal conservative in Carolyn Cater for state representative. I have a background in political science. Interned for Senator Bill Schuette. Worked as a seafarer on the Great Lakes. I’m the first female coal passer on a steamship. I’ve learned how to take no bull in an all-male work environment. 

MCP: What do you see as the state’s biggest challenges in the near future? 

O’Malley: Right now the biggest hurdle is dealing with budget shortfalls as a result of COVID-19. We as a state are going to be working with much less revenue due to this pandemic, and we need to think of more creative ways to spend our dollars more efficiently. Roads remain an issue as does education. But the all-encompassing Covid economic recovery will play huge.

Cater: The budget. Fighting tax increases under this governor. Opening the 101st District.

Beth McGill-Rizer

McGill-Rizer: Our biggest challenge is the pandemic. It has put people out of work and kids home from school. People lost their health insurance, and our health care system is challenged. We need to get people back to work and school safely.

MCP: What do you see as the state’s biggest challenges in the distant future?

Cater: Democrat control of both the house and senate, and the governorship, in perpetuity, due to the state constitutional changes made in 2018, per Proposals 2 and 3 from 2018. Continued loss of population in the State of Michigan.

McGill-Rizer: We need to attract businesses to our district. We need to provide for our citizens and pay our bills. Our infrastructure needs repair and expansion. Our companies and schools need broadband expansion.

We need to improve our schools and compensate our teachers fairly and recognize their extraordinary professionalism. Fewer people are choosing teaching as a profession. We need affordable childcare options.

O’Malley: I think that our state needs to be much more proactive in planning for the inevitable. It’s unfortunate that the issue of flooding and shoreline erosion somewhat took a backseat to the pandemic, but this is not an issue that is going away. Water levels are going to continue to rise and fall, and with the number of individuals that we have along and near large bodies of water in this state, we need to be much better prepared for when the water levels increase again. As mentioned above, roads and education are critical as well. I am also working on help for our childcare providers that assists our young families. Childcare is an issue we need to bring out of the shadows. It is as important as work force housing and quality jobs.

MCP: What has the governor done right with the COVID-19 response? What has she done wrong?

McGill-Rizer: Governor Whitmer saved many lives with her quick response. COVID-19 is not just a “bug,” it’s a novel virus, that means we don’t know what we don’t know. While it may not be a death sentence for some, it is for others. We’ve learned a lot about this virus, we know how it’s spread, we continue to develop treatments, but a vaccine is still not available. There are things we can do to mitigate the spread, social distance, personal hygiene, and wear a mask in public. I think nothing should have been allowed to reopen without a mandatory mask order.

O’Malley: The governor was reacting quickly at the beginning of this pandemic. In the early weeks she had a good relationship with the legislature, and we worked though some early issues. But then somewhere in early April the governor stopped listening to and working with the legislature. That is when she took the path of unilateral leadership. Her vast number of executive orders were extremely vague and in need of clarification. No longer did she implement any suggestions, nor even give our branch of government a seat at the table. Her interpretation of the 1945 emergency powers law is, I believe unconstitutional, and not how a functioning government operates. We need checks and balances on our system so that no governor can have this type of power ever again in the future. As a member of the Covid-19 Oversight Committee, I have heard testimony over and over how the Governors office has not listened to many groups and business who are trying to restart the economy. I would say I don’t disagree with the governor’s goals, but I have serious issues with much of her implementation.

Cater: Nothing (right). And everything (wrong). The 101st District should have never been shut down. The whole state shouldn’t have been shut down. Maybe Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb (counties), but not the whole state. This governor has really messed up our state budget for the following years, hoping for a bailout from Washington that’s not coming. We know that “Big Tax Jack” won’t call her out on her shenanigans.  I would like to see real data in the nursing home deaths and the science used for justification.

MCP: Do you believe the legislator should share an equal role in government as the executive and the Supreme Court, as specified by the Constitution of the State of Michigan?

O’Malley: Absolutely. Our government was set up with co-equal branches of government for a reason. We need these checks on our system to prevent one-person rule. I believe that was what we established in 1776.

Cater: Absolutely. We have three equal branches of government. Under this current dictator/governor, we don’t have equal branches. “Go Along, Get Along” Jack is letting Governor Whitmer get away with it. Where has he, in any of these videos, told us that he’s going to stand up to this governor? He said, basically, just shut up and do what the governor says, that’s basically what he says in his little videos, and that’s what he told the Chamber of Commerce. We have to do what she says because she’s the Governor. Well, no, Jack! Go back to talk radio where you can give your defeatist opinions, a place without a vote, doing no harm to Michigan.Definitely shouldn’t be a representative in Lansing for the 101st.

(Editor’s fact check: Ms. Cater’s comments are inaccurate. Mr. O’Malley has, on several occasions, stated his opposition to the governor’s handling of the pandemic.)

McGill-Rizer: Each branch of government has its role.

MCP: What are the top five issues you see are the most important to the voters in the 101st District of Michigan?

Cater: 

  1. We want our Freedom back, to be left alone. 
  2. We want businesses open in the 101st.
  3. We want our Second Amendment rights protected. To kill the red flag bills sitting in our state senate.
  4. We want lower taxes/fight tax increases/regulatory increases
  5. And finally, We want to fix our damn roads already, dammit. You can’t blame everything on COVID, Governor. Fix the damn roads.

McGill-Rizer: 

  1. The economy.
  2. Education. 
  3. Healthcare. 
  4. Infrastructure
  5. The environment.

O’Malley: Along with all of the challenges that Covid has brought, I believe that the most critical issues to the voters would be moving forward with getting the education system fixed. Better local input from teachers, parents and school boards. Flooding/shoreline erosion, access to childcare (especially in rural areas), roads/infrastructure development, and the recreation/tourism industry.

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