Cambensy running for state House

Sara Cambensy addresses supporters this morning on the steps of the Peter White Public Library in Marquette after declaring her candidacy for the 109th State House District seat. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

MARQUETTE — Marquette City Commissioner Sara Cambensy announced her candidacy for Michigan’s 109th District House of Representatives seat this morning ahead of the November 2018 election.

The 109th District covers Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce and most of Marquette counties. Current 109th District Rep. John Kivela is term limited for that seat and has announced he will run for the 38th State Senate District seat in 2018.

Cambensy chose to make the announcement on Tax Day on the front steps of the Peter White Public Library to highlight the need for tax fairness, she told The Mining Journal ahead of the event.

“Here it is Tax Day,” Cambensy said, “And all of us are paying our fair share, yet standing outside of a community asset that is symbolic of community education, and it’s being deeply affected by the (Michigan) Tax Tribunal policies in place right now.”

In a press release, Cambensy said her top priority will be to bring the voice of people to Lansing, where too many lobbyists have the attention of legislators at the expense of local needs. Small businesses, local governments and citizens in the district are not getting a fair return on taxes paid, her release states.

“While our governor and legislature keep giving more and more tax breaks to large corporations, our counties, townships and municipalities keep paying our fair share of individual and small business taxes,” Cambensy said in the release. “Yet year after year, we continue to receive less and less revenue sharing back from our state to fix our infrastructure, fund public safety, and provide our public schools with the resources and the latest technology to prepare our students for 21st century jobs.”

She told the Journal that tax fairness and education will be major priorities for her, should she be elected.

She referred to the Michigan Tax Tribunal’s policy, dating back to 2010, of taxing “big box” stores as if they were dark or empty, thereby cutting their taxes by one-half to two-thirds in municipalities around the state, including Marquette Township.

Library officials said in 2015 that added budget pressures, due in part to reduced revenue from local big box stores, led them to close Peter White on Sundays as a cost-saving measure.

“I think the biggest issues we’re facing, I see those truly as non-partisan issues, you know, fairness in taxation, education and making sure that we can provide the technology and resources that our teachers need today to educate the students, to be able to have those skills going into those high-tech jobs in our state,” Cambensy said. “Both of those are issues I would say it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. This is something that I think all of us need to fight for and work together to resolve.”

Other concerns addressed in her press release included finding solutions for lost mining jobs, a changing energy landscape, and aging infrastructure and transportation systems.

Cambensy, who will finish her second three-year term on the commission in November 2018, said she chose to begin her campaign nearly two years early to get her message out, which she said other Democrats are doing as well.

“We’re coming out early, not only to get our message out, but because we will not take money from organizations and people like (large corporations and powerful donors),” Cambensy said. “We’re working harder, we’re coming out early to get our message out that the majority of taxpayers are not OK with this. We want change, and we want to get out there as soon as possible to start talking to people to hopefully create a movement, not just by elected officials, but by the actual people.”

Mayor Dave Campana endorsed her run in the release and introduced her to the crowd gathered to hear her announcement.

“I have worked with Sara on the city commission and observed her service on other boards and committees and believe she will make a great state representative for the people of the 109th district,” Campana said.

Cambensy, a lifelong resident of Marquette, is currently the Director of Adult and Community Education and Kaufman Auditorium for Marquette Area Public Schools. She was appointed to the Marquette City Planning Commission in 2008, elected to the Marquette Charter Commission in 2011 and has served as an elected Marquette City Commissioner since 2012. Cambensy earned her Bachelors degree in Education from Northern Michigan University in 2002 and her Masters of Public Administration from NMU in 2011, according to the release.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is