Democrats compete for 109th District


MARQUETTE — Four Democratic candidates are squaring off in the Aug. 8 primary election hoping to occupy the Michigan House seat vacated by the late Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette.

The winner of the primary will go on to face Republican challenger Rich Rossway.

The top vote-getter in the November general election will serve the remainder of Kivela’s term, which expires at the end of 2018.

Each candidate was asked the three same questions via email, with responses limited to 75 words for the first question, 100 words for the second and 200 words for the third.

Below are the questions and their replies.


Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is

Sara Cambensy

Marquette, Marquette County

List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

Born and raised here, I come from parents who gave me the heart of a union nurse and the acumen of an engineer. I have a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in public administration from NMU, and I am employed by the Marquette Area Public Schools as the director of adult and community education. As a Type-1 diabetic for over 30 years, I understand the importance of having access to quality, affordable healthcare.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

Michigan has become a state that doesn’t invest in people. We need to prioritize our state budget — not privatize our public services. Whether it’s our teachers, nurses, veterans, mental healthcare professionals, public safety officials, prison guards or our skilled laborers, Lansing cannot continue to value corporate tax giveaways over the work government does every day on behalf of its citizens. Returning more revenue-sharing back to our local units of government to provide adequate public services with your tax dollars is a must. Changing this starts with electing a leader who has demonstrated they understand that they work for the people.


Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

My experience. I have asked the citizens of Marquette three times for their vote as an elected commissioner, and each time they have said yes. For the last six years I have treated their tax dollars like it’s my own money when making long-term, multimillion dollar decisions on their behalf and I have never forgotten that I have been given their trust. Whether it’s tax incentives, tax tribunals, brownfield developments, revenue-sharing, public safety, unfunded liabilities or multimillion dollar infrastructure projects or budgets, I have voted responsibly on these issues for the people. I have spoken up for our teachers and support staff when their jobs were threatened, as well as for our local steelworkers when our state 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, and as the next 109th state representative I will do the same in Lansing. At a time when the majority of the public doesn’t trust their political leaders, I have consistently proven my dedication, knowledge and loyalty to the people. Sending me to Lansing is the next best thing to being their yourself.

Joe Derocha

Humboldt Township, Marquette County

List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I’m a lifelong resident of the 109th District, the fifth and final child of a 38-year underground iron miner and a homemaker. I’ve been a local businessman for 34 years, am an avid sportsman and am the father of three. Appointed to the Humboldt planning commission 15 years ago, I was next elected township supervisor and then county commissioner for District 2. I am currently serving as vice chair, an obligation I take seriously.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)


You will find me relentless in the pursuit of quality jobs and economic development coupled with safe environmental stewardship. Accomplishing this goal will result in success in keeping high performing schools and maintaining a tax base to provide infrastructure and quality services to the residents of the 109th District. It will also help stem the migration of our young people, who will then have the option of staying here where they have their roots. Since our outdoors are significant to the lives of our residents, we must always consider ramifications on the environment of any decisions we make.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

I am passionate about protecting this place we call home and enhancing the quality of life for its citizens. My father taught me to listen first and then figure things out for myself; therefore, my strength is in thoroughly investigating the issues before making educated decisions. No knee-jerk reactions from this guy!

I was one of several stakeholders instrumental in job creation in Western Marquette County. With my leadership and a proactive board, Rio Tinto was persuaded to locate on a 160-acre brownfield site, creating 750 construction jobs and 425 permanent high-quality jobs on the Eagle Mine project.

I lobbied Governor Granholm and Congressman Stupak to obtain the former Elf site, turning it into a community benefit. A portion of the profits from the facility — $10,000 — was forwarded to the most-deserving veterans at the Jacobetti Home.

As you can see, I’ve already shown my leadership abilities.

I don’t have all the answers. But with hard work and the help of an extensive network both in Lansing and within the confines of the 109th District, I have been and will continue to be effective. I’m not on the practice field: I am already in the game!

Tom Curry

Limestone Township, Alger County

List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I was born in Illinois, raised in Florida and moved to the U.P. in 1988. I live here by choice, not by birthright.

I was first elected as Limestone Township supervisor in 1992, and have been re-elected six times. I have been in the workforce for over 40 years, and have worked for companies sized from three people to Hewlett Packard Corporation. My wife and I own two small businesses.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

Education is crucial and our schools need to be funded adequately. The future of the U.P. will be determined by the amount we invest in educating our kids. We must fund their education, which requires enticing and retaining great teachers. Under Proposal A, and prior to that, school funding has been coupled to property taxes. This method has earned a D- grade in education spending as cited in Education Week. We must step up. I am furious, if we do not fund education better than a D-, can we expect more from the kids?

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

My work experience, my small business experience, my life experience, combined with 25 years in local government make me the most well-rounded, experienced and qualified candidate running for Michigan’s 109th District. I firmly believe in the importance of bipartisanship and working across the aisle to make our district, and the state of Michigan, a better place for our residents and businesses.

This state is like an airplane, the fuselage where the people sit, and two wings. We are all striving to get to the same place, a better life for all. Occasionally, some will crawl out on one of the wings. If too many crawl out on either wing, the plane goes off course, and if it is allowed to go either too far right, or too far left, it can crash and burn. I will try my absolute best to return our plane on course to get to that goal.

Government’s role is to protect our individual rights and build an economy for all the people.

Government should not simply work for those at the top, career politicians and special interest groups. I will take my experience to Lansing and be your voice, and your voice alone.

Jeremy Hosking

Negaunee Township, Marquette County

List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I am a lifelong resident of the U.P. I was born in Ishpeming, raised in Palmer, and now live in Negaunee Township. I attended the Negaunee Public Schools. Upon graduation, I went to Northern Michigan University (NMU) where I earned my bachelor degree in political science, and in 2012, a graduate degree in public administration. I am an active member of the Negaunee Lions Club and the Negaunee Area Community Fund.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

The most important issue facing the 109th District is the regional economy. Our regional economy includes public sector employers like our schools and prisons, and private sector industries like forestry and mining. In 2016, the Michigan Education Finance Study said that it takes $8,667 to educate the average Michigan student. Sadly, the Legislature appropriates about $1,300 less than the study recommends. This is happening across the board to our backbone industries in both the public and private sectors. Knowing this, I want to work for you to address and fortify the policies that affect the heart of our regional economy.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

Voters should choose me because I have 10 years combined experience working in the legislative branch of government at the state and national level. I started my public service career as an aide to former state Rep. Steve Lindberg, and most recently, I served as the Upper Peninsula regional manager to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. I am the only candidate in the race who has this type of legislative experience. During my public service career, I have witnessed and worked with the legislative process from start to finish — the introduction of a bill, the committee process, the exchange between the Senate and House, and the signing of legislation into law. I have learned much about the intricacies of the legislative process as well as how the state and federal bureaucracies function. In addition to legislation, an effective state representative should emphasize constituent services. I intend to take your phone calls and emails because the state bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate. If you have an issue with state government, then I want to hear from you because I am working for you. I want to represent you. I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.