MARQUETTE - Two longtime Upper Peninsula residents will face off Tuesday for a seat in the 109th District of Michigan's House.
Jack Hubbard, R-Grand Marais, and John Kivela, D-Marquette, have both been involved in regional politics - Kivela as mayor of Marquette and Hubbard as supervisor of Alger County's Burt Township - for years.
Hubbard, who has served as Burt's supervisor for the past six years and identified himself as "a fighter," said that his experience orchestrating the long-awaited reconstruction of the Grand Marais Harbor breakwater is vital.
"I have a lot more experience working in Lansing than (Kivela) does. Right from the governor on down, to all these agency heads," he said. "I already have a working relationship with all these people. I think I'm more qualified for the job than he is, by far."
Kivela - who just wrapped up his fourth year as mayor and before that served on the city's board of zoning appeals - also said experience is what separates him and Hubbard.
"Jack built a breakwall. We're all aware of that," he said. "But his experience in running a government, of taking on these challenges - I don't know that he's got the experience. Being a township manager of 556 people is significantly different than what this job involves.
"I've worked hard. I go to Lansing six or seven times a year ... to work on our issues, to meet our representatives, work with the governor's office on things. I've got that experience I bring to the table."
Kivela said a main campaign point is vocational education, which he feels is being neglected. The stringent Michigan Merit Curriculum, combined with decreasing state funding, has been bad news for vocational education.
"We need doctors and lawyers and professors," he said. "We need all of those, but we also need pipefitters and plumbers and welders and mechanics and carpenters and we are really hurting ourselves."
Hubbard, who graduated from Marquette Area Public Schools and also highlights the need for an increased focus on vocational education, said he would most like to see better use of the U.P.'s natural resources.
He said he believes the state regulatory process could be streamlined and he disagrees with those who say his views place him at odds with environmentalists.
"I'm a logger and I practice sound environmental management every single day," he said. "Every day I go to work, I feel that I truly am an environmentalist, because I practice it. I think our environment is very important, but I think we should put ourselves in a situation where we can use it."
On the same issue, Kivela highlighted the importance of natural resources, but said he would lean the other direction.
"Natural resources will always play a key role in the Upper Peninsula, but it's a different world," he said. "We can't scale back all the laws that are meant to protect the environment. Whether you want to or not, it's not going to happen."
Despite their political differences, however, both Kivela and Hubbard said it would be vitally important for the district's next representative to form a unified front with the other U.P. officials. In the House, only four of 110 elected officials represent the U.P.
"It is difficult," Kivela said. "We're at a disadvantage in the U.P. What it's dependent on is all of our reps going in the same direction.
"We can all have our differences in how we want to approach things, but we have to pull in the same direction, for the Upper Peninsula."
"I don't think we need to be micromanaging anything, but we need to all get on the same page here," he said.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.