US Sen. Debbie Stabenow kicks off campaign in Marquette

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow greets attendees at the kickoff of the “One Campaign for Michigan,” which was held at the Marquette County Democratic Party headquarters Saturday afternoon. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, visited the Marquette County Democratic Party headquarters Saturday afternoon, kicking off the “One Campaign for Michigan” in the Upper Peninsula as she seeks reelection for her fourth six-year term in congress.

Stabenow and Detroit-area businessman and Iraq War veteran John James, R-Michigan, are vying for the seat, which will be determined by votes cast during the Nov. 6 election.

The senator was welcomed by a full house of area residents as well as state Reps. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette and Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, as well as Democratic candidate for congress Matt Morgan, who received enough write-in votes in the August primary to be placed on the November ballot.

Protecting the Great Lakes, Know the Lowest Price Act, mental health and universal health care were among the topics Stabenow discussed during the event.

“We are running ‘One Campaign’ on a set of values about what’s important to our state,” Stabenow told the room of around 40 people. “Protecting our water, our Great Lakes, as well as our drinking water and all of the threats to our water, we stand together.”

As the author of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has helped clean lakes, waterways and beaches in Michigan, Stabenow led the bipartisan coalition to restore critical funds after President Donald Trump threatened to zero out the program’s $300 million funding in his budget.

“As your senator, even in the midst of all of the chaos that’s going on, I think it’s important to try and get things done every day,” Stabenow said. “I worry that people will give up on our democracy if we can’t show them that we can actually solve problems. So when the president zeroed out all of the money to the Great Lakes, it was a bipartisan coalition. I was proud to lead it, but we were able to bring people together to protect every penny.”

Stabenow also focused on the Know the Lowest Price Act, which cracks down on gag clauses that stop pharmacists from telling customers they can pay less for their prescription drugs if they pay out of pocket.

“The pharmacists were the ones that brought this to my attention,” she said. “The drug companies and middle men rushed to say they didn’t do it … and I said, ‘Well, great — let’s pass the bill then since no one does it.'”

The bill was passed unanimously Wednesday by the U.S. senate, she added.

In regards to health care, Stabenow said she wants to make sure it’s available to everyone in Michigan.

“Fifty percent of the folks in Michigan have a pre-existing condition from high blood pressure to diabetes to cancer to anything else — and so, we want everybody to know that health care is personal, not political and that we are committed to make sure that health care is something … in this great country that’s available to everyone,” she said.

An audience member commended Stabenow for her dedication to improving and promoting mental health services throughout the state. Stabenow thanked them and compared mental illnesses to any other physical ailment that can be managed with proper care.

“If you have diabetes and you’re checking your sugar and you’re managing that and take your insulin, you go on with your life,” Stabenow said. “Same thing can happen if you are bipolar. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. You can get medication and it will balance that out for you. It will monitor it. It’s not easy — any disease is not easy, but chronic disease in the brain can be managed and you can go on with your life.”

In response to John James’ remarks about her neglecting to do more for veterans, Stabenow said her father, who was a World War II veteran, told her that “a veteran shouldn’t stand at the back of any line. Not for a job, not for health care, not for education, not for housing.”

“I believe that to my core,” she said.

Stabenow also expressed her thoughts on retiree pensions.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about the pension being there when you retire. Including social security and Medicare, by the way,” she said. “I have an opponent who has said we shouldn’t have some things through mandatory funding, which is Medicare and social security funding and veterans’ benefits. He said we ought to go through the budget each and every year. No. People pay into Medicare and social security and we’re not going to get involved in budget fights every year. It’s something that’s going to be there (because) people have earned it.”

Stabenow thanked everyone for supporting her throughout the years and closed on the note that while James has said he’s “2,000 percent for Donald Trump” and that he believes U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is doing a “good job,” that she’s “2,000 percent for Michigan” and always will be.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.