Two Republican candidates have mounted challenges to the re-election of GOP senator Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, who is nearing the top of state Republican legislative leadership as president pro tempore of the Senate.
Nesbitt, 42, currently represents Michigan’s 26th Senate District but has filed in the relabeled 20th Senate District, which encompasses much of the same territory as the 26th District and stretches from northern Allegan County and Gaines and Byron townships in Kent County down to Benton Harbor-St. Joseph in Berrien County.
In August, Republican voters will pick between Nesbitt, one of the party’s most senior legislators, and two political newcomers, Kaleb Hudson and Austin Kreutz.
Hudson is a 20-year-old from Gaines Township mounting his first political campaign. He is studying pastoral ministry and political science in a virtual program at Liberty University and is employed at Rapid Packaging.
“This campaign has been faith-based,” Hudson said. “I put God first in this campaign each and every day.”
Hudson said he was inspired to run to “make sure that the voices of the people are heard.” Although he has ambitions to eventually serve in the U.S. Senate, he also said he believes politics shouldn’t be a career and supports term limits.
“I have no political experience whatsoever. That right there is an advantage, because I’m willing to learn,” Hudson said.
The student said his priorities for office, if elected, would be education and the budget. He wants to raise wages for teachers, place more of an emphasis on trade school and apprenticeships — “I think we need to advertise those as much as we advertise college” — and get control of “overspending” in the state budget to lower taxes.
Also running is Kreutz, pastor of Restoration Christian Community in Allegan.
Kreutz, who declined an interview with The Sentinel, has said he was inspired to run for state senate after watching the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee dismiss claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
The Senate Oversight Committee, led by Republican lawmakers, investigated the claims and found no evidence of widespread fraud, saying citizens can be confident that the results of the 2020 election were accurate.
Nesbitt was one of ten Republican senators to call on Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to investigate election fraud immediately following the November 2020 election.
Since the 2020 election, he has supported attempts at sweeping election reforms by the Michigan Senate such as voter-ID requirements, passed last year by the House and Senate but vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Kreutz’s website describes Whitmer as “drunk with power” and “narcissistic,” citing Whitmer’s shutdown orders in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Under her directives many a small business permanently closed as big business profited from the situation,” Kreutz writes. “While citizens like Karl Manke and Marlena Pavlos-Hackney stood their ground, and kept their business open, crickets were heard in Lansing.”
Pavlos-Hackney is a restaurant owner in Holland who was taken to court and briefly jailed for refusing to comply with court orders to close her restaurant. Pavlos-Hackney kept the dining room of her restaurant open in 2020 and early 2021 in defiance of state health orders that mandated take-out only operations at the time.
Nesbitt, who did not respond to a request for an interview, served three terms in the Michigan House before a stint in Gov. Rick Snyder’s cabinet as state lottery commissioner. In 2018, he won election to the State Senate with 56.7 percent of the vote to Democrat Garnet Lewis’s 40.1 percent.
In election materials, Nesbitt has highlighted his work on automobile insurance reform, passed in 2019, which he says led to reduced insurance rates for consumers and the refund checks Michiganders received in the mail this year.
Nesbitt has introduced a $500 child tax credit and says in campaign materials that he is working to “lower the income tax” and “reduce Michigan’s business tax to the lowest in the Midwest, along with increasing access to broadband, supporting quality education and improving our roads, bridges and water infrastructure.”
The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face the lone Democratic candidate, Kim Jorgensen Gane, a writer and abortion-rights activist, in November.
Gane, who lives in St. Joseph, said her passion for abortion rights was what inspired her to run for state senate after hearing Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Coloma, make the statement that “abortion should be painful.”
Although LaSata is now running in the 17th Senate District after the redistricting process, Gane said she still felt compelled to run against Nesbitt, who holds pro-life views and is endorsed by Michigan Right to Life.
Gane said the theme of her campaign is “care,” and she is running on issues that affect parents, families and other kinds of caregivers. She noted top-line priorities for her campaign include paid family leave, access to broadband, public transportation, access to driver’s licenses for immigrants and amending the state’s civil rights law to include protections for gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Abortion is a very small part of the reproductive rights journey,” Gane said. “It includes access to child care, it includes paid leave, it includes public schools, it includes gun safety and being able to feel safe in our homes and our communities.”