Three on ballot for 109th District seat

Cambensy, Roberts and Rossway are challengers

MARQUETTE — Sara Cambensy, Wade Roberts and Rich Rossway are the candidates for the 109th Michigan House of Representatives seat vacated by the late Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette.

The winner of the Nov. 7 special election will serve the remainder of Kivela’s term, which expires at the end of 2018. District 109 covers all or parts of Marquette, Alger, Luce and Schoolcraft counties.

The three were asked to provide information on three topics: their background, what they believe are the most important issues facing the district and why voters should choose them for the seat. They are listed in alphabetical order by last name.


Sara Cambensy – Democratic Party

“Born and raised here, I come from parents who gave me the heart of a union nurse and the common sense of an engineer,” Cambensy said. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University, and is employed by Marquette Area Public Schools as director of Adult and Community Education.

As a type 1 diabetic for over 30 years, Cambensy said she understands the importance of having access to quality, affordable health care.

“Michigan needs to become a state that invests in people,” she said. “We need to prioritize our state budget, not privatize our public services. Whether it’s our teachers, nurses, veterans, mental health care professionals, corrections officers, public safety officials or our skilled laborers, Lansing can’t continue to value corporate tax giveaways over people and the work government does every day on behalf of its citizens.”

Cambensy said Lansing should return more revenue-sharing back to local government to provide adequate public services with people’s hard-earned tax dollars.

“We need to lower auto no-fault rates, decrease prescription drug costs for seniors and fix our local infrastructure first,” Cambensy said.

Cambensy, who serves on the Marquette City Commission, said her experience and ability to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money is why people should vote for her.

“For the last six years, I have treated public tax dollars like it’s my own money when making long-term, multi-million dollar decisions on their behalf and I have never forgotten that I have been given their trust,” Cambensy said. “Whether it’s tax incentives, tax tribunals, brownfield developments, revenue-sharing, public safety, unfunded liabilities, multi-million dollar infrastructure projects or budgets, I have already worked on and voted responsibly on these issues for the people.

“I have spoken up for teachers and support staff when their jobs were threatened, as well as for our local steelworkers when elected leaders didn’t do enough to fight for our Marquette Iron Range. I have asked the tough questions and taken the hard votes for the people who put me in office. At a time when the majority of the public doesn’t trust their political leaders, I have consistently proven my dedication to public service, my knowledge on issues and my loyalty to the people who put me in office over special interests.”

Her campaign, she said, is not controlled by Lansing bureaucrats.

“I won’t be either,” Cambensy said. “Sending me to Lansing is the next best thing to being there yourself.”


Wade Roberts – Green Party

Roberts said he’s a “reasonably disabled” corrections officer who served in that capacity from 1990 to 1998 when his career ended due to a failed cervical spine surgery in November 1997, which was necessitated by an on-the-job injury at what is now the Alger Correctional Facility in 1994.

He said his goal is to again serve the people of the state of Michigan as their 109th District state representative.

“Our futures depend upon sustainable development of our natural resources and the re-establishment of the grassroots democracy that originally built the Upper Peninsula,” Roberts said. “We can achieve this goal together by decentralizing our electrical grid and utilizing renewable energy while at the same time increasing our agricultural output. Wind, solar and wood biomass are plentiful and represent an underutilized resource in the U.P. that can provide 100 percent of our needs for electrical and thermal energy, utilizing proven technologies that are now economically competitive with fossil fuels.”

These changes will create stable employment and reinvest consumer dollars back in the U.P., he said.

“The two-party political system has done a wonderful job representing the interests of the billionaire and millionaire class,” Roberts said. “The middle class continues to shrink and the truly great paying manufacturing jobs have long ago been exported by the duopoly and are never coming back in the form of great-paying union jobs.”

Roberts said the working class has suffered decades of austerity and a minimum wage that hasn’t kept pace with even low inflation, and the buzzwords are again more tax cuts and more jobs.

“It’s not going to work that way,” Roberts said. “The investor class will be enriched by more tax cuts, and those profits will be reinvested in the technology to further automate and robotize our manufacturing base and most of our service industries as well.”

He noted that over 40 percent of existing jobs will be replaced by technological advances in less than the next decade.

“We’ve got to return to our roots and build a sustainable economy that will provide full employment and not-for-profit health care as a right,” Roberts said. “Only one party has these planks in its platform: the Green Party of Michigan.”


Rich Rossway – Republican Party

Rossway has served on the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education for 17 years and on the city of Marquette Brownfield Authority for eight years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and a member of the SmartZone board.

The Marquette native, who attended Marquette Senior High School, is an executive at ABC-TV10. Married 27 years to Rita, their children are Rhonda, a Ph.D. student, and Rainger, a software programmer. Rossway is a member of the Elks, the American Legion and Redeemer Lutheran Church.

“Health care is a huge issue,” Rossway said. “I’m supporting Sen. (Tom) Casperson in getting legislation passed to manage staffing rates so our hard-working nurses can provide quality care.”

He believes another important issue is school funding, as the per-pupil allowance formula has devastated many school districts across the Upper Peninsula.

“Building County Road 595 is critical to our mining industry, providing better jobs, a cleaner environment and a growing economy,” Rossway said. He also said the opiate epidemic can be managed by expanding mental health services to get people the help they need. He also pointed to the need to support “underpaid and overworked” corrections officers who face safety and understaffing challenges every day.

“I’ve been a leader all my life, and what Lansing needs is leadership,” Rossway said. “My years on the school board reflects that leadership, as we’ve navigated school closures and funding inefficiencies, yet have grown and prospered with the expansion of two elementary buildings, a new athletic complex and a three-year contract with all five of our unions.”

As director of marketing, Rossway increased Bell Hospital’s market share during his seven-year tenure, having been heavily involved with the development of the new hospital. He also led the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as its community/public relations director for over six years during what he called a tumultuous time in its history, stabilizing its government while growing and expanding casino revenues.

“I worked closely with then Gov. (John) Engler and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin in a bipartisan fashion, rescuing the Harvey casino from a federal closure, saving 200-plus jobs,” said Rossway, who also spent six years at Teaching Family Homes of Upper Michigan, a non-profit that cares for abused children, where he increased revenues and led the way toward the development, building and implementation of a high ropes challenge course.

“I have a strong work ethic, having knocked on over 8,000 doors since my campaign started,” Rossway said. “No one will work harder for the U.P.”

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 7.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.