CMU alumnus and faculty run for Michigan's fourth district Congress Representative
In the Aug. 4 primary election, two Democrats, Jerry Hilliard and Anthony Feig, are vying for the chance to challenge Congressman John Moolenaar in November.
The winner of the Democratic primary will battle Moolenaar to serve as Michigan’s 4th District Representative in Congress. Moolenaar, 59, has served Michigan’s 4th District since 2015. The district includes Isabella, Midland, Clare and Gladwin counties.
Both challengers have a unique relationship with Central Michigan University. Hilliard is a CMU alumnus and Feig has taught at CMU for more than a decade.
Hilliard, 70, was born in Midland. He graduated from Harrison High School and then enrolled at CMU where he earned a Bachelor of Science in business education, physical education and biology as well as a Masters degree in sports administration.
After graduating, Hilliard taught economics and business at Mid-Michigan Community College and Lansing Community College.
Because of his experience in economics, Hilliard said he knows the importance of the role small businesses play in the economy.
“We need small businesses to help competition with the big businesses,” Hilliard said. “They’re a great part of our economy, but they’re not treated like it.”
Hilliard also stressed the importance of getting unemployment assistance to people who are struggling financially, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unemployment checks have helped people at the bottom of the economic system so that they will spend that money. That is more important than giving tax breaks to Apple,” Hilliard said. “Giving money to people at the bottom gets the economy moving again and it has been what has saved our economy from a potential Great Depression during this pandemic.”
More assistance should be given to recent college graduates to help manage their loans, he said.
“Investing in young people and their education pays society back,” Hilliard said. “When they come out of college with so much debt, it’s not good for anybody, not the consumer and not businesses.”
Hilliard has taken an on-campus class at CMU every decade since the 1960s just to stay connected to the university and further his education. Hilliard lives in Mount Pleasant and purchases a membership to the Student Activities Center gym every winter to stay fit.
Feig, 51, was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Feig’s family couldn’t afford college, so he had to work full-time to pay his tuition as a community college student. Sometimes, he worked three part-time jobs at once — unloading trucks, delivering flowers and working in group homes.
In 1990, Feig left Arizona to attend the University of New Mexico where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in earth and planetary sciences in 1995. He then decided to further chase his passion for science and move onto graduate school at the University of Nevada Las Vegas where he earned his Masters degree in geoscience. After eight years as a first-generation college student, Feig graduated in 1998.
The Feig family later moved to Mount Pleasant in 2008, where both Feig and his wife, Cathy, joined the CMU faculty.
The couple's two children, Pierre and Dave, both attend Mount Pleasant High School. Pierre will graduate in 2022 and Dave in 2024. After graduating, they both plan to attend CMU.
Feig served as CMU’s Faculty Association president in 2018-2019 but after his term as president ended, he didn’t want to give up working closely with people in the state and unions.
“I’m running for Congress because I truly believe the government is supposed to help people,” Feig said.
With his life experiences of growing up with a single mother, not having health insurance, being a first-generation college student and now raising his own kids, Feig believes he knows what family really means and how hard working life can be for many struggling families.
As a teacher of science, Feig also believes he has an informed approach to climate and energy problems. He also believes that the student loan industry should not be privatized.
“When I was in college, I had some student loans and they were serviced through the direct student loans center,” Feig said. “Since then there has been a massive privatization of the student loan industry. If I succeed, I want to see a substantial pell grant program on the agenda.”