Incumbent Hauck faces Zang in state representative race

Courtesy Photos : State Rep. Roger Hauck (left) and Democratic challenger John Zang

Mount Pleasant resident John Zang and incumbent Roger Hauck will face each other in the Nov. 3 election in hopes of winning the 99th state representative seat.

Democratic candidate Zang entered the primaries for the state representative seat just before the deadline. Republican incumbent Roger Hauck has been working in the Michigan congress to draft responses to COVID-19.

Zang previously served as Mount Pleasant's director of Public Works. The division Zang saw in the country inspired him to run. Zang said he is working toward becoming a congressman to bridge the gaps between Democrats and Republicans.

Hauck, who was elected in 2016, was first a Union Township Trustee and worked on a farm for 25 years. He funded workers who identified PFAS sites that leaked into drinking water.

Central Michigan Life emailed a list of questions to Hauck and Zang about the coronavirus pandemic, school openings and the environment.

CM Life: What do you think about students returning to school this year, both private and public?

Hauck: My focus for students returning to school was to give flexibility to our local school districts to establish reopening plans that best fit their unique situation. I also wanted to ensure that those plans included some form of two-way communication between the teacher and student if they couldn’t meet in person. I was pleased that we were able to work with the governor to come up with a bipartisan plan that achieved that goal. 

Zang: This should not be a political decision made by politicians. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Public health officials in conjunction with school administrators and teachers should be deciding. The state government should make sure that schools have PPE, and financial support to make facility modifications to increase the opportunity to open schools safely. Central Michigan University did a good job of preparing for students to resume in-class learning. However, large social gatherings without masks and social distancing showed the seriousness of this contagious virus.

What other coronavirus-related issues are you interested in tackling?

Hauck: Throughout the pandemic, a little over 1,400 people contacted my office for assistance with their unemployment claim. Sadly, many people had to wait weeks and even months for assistance. While we gave the department millions of dollars to staff, the system and the process was too antiquated to handle the load. During my discussions with constituents, it was apparent that most delays could have easily been avoided with a better process. For example, about 10 percent of people that contacted my office accidentally clicked the box stating they were not a US Citizen. This tiny mistake could not be fixed online. They had to call the overloaded call center and wait on hold for hours – often not getting through. This is just one example of many that we could easily change to make the process work better.

Zang: The coronavirus has created havoc on the state budget, which will affect every department and employee in the state. The financial impact will be felt at the local level too and with businesses and workers throughout the state. I am the best candidate to deal with these important and lasting issues.

Zang, In the Midland Daily News, you said that your “experience in the public sector and my business sector experience will help me make fiscally sound decisions while keeping in mind the social values of our area”. Zang and Hauck, what are those social values to you?

Hauck: I would like to continue to uphold mutual respect for one another and individual rights.

Zang: Citizens are entitled to safe and reliable services and infrastructure. I understand finance and fiscal management, but priorities for limited funds must reflect what is important to residents – such as public schools, infrastructure and the environment… (The) state-to-student cost shift in paying for Michigan public university education has put a terrible burden on college students and young adults. This is unfair to them and hurts Michigan’s economy. Other important values include my concern for the state and federal government dismantling laws that protect the environment and defunding agencies that protect the environment. Additionally, Michigan legislators have not funded infrastructure to any meaningful level and as a result, Michigan’s infrastructure is in bad shape. 

Michigan has river pollution issues, including the Chippewa River. What would you do to fix that?

Hauck: Protection of our natural resources is very important to me. I believe we have an obligation to ensure that we have safe and clean water. So, when I learned that raw sewage was flowing into the Chippewa River in Beal City, I took action. I fought to secure $3.1 million dollars in the state budget to build a sewer system in the area.

Zang: I worked with the Chippewa River conservancy and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe as they worked to verify the source of pollution to the Chippewa River. I worked with officials from Nottawa Township, engineers and Mount Pleasant to sign an agreement allowing the Beal City Area to transfer sewage to Mount Pleasant for treatment. This construction is already underway. This solution for wastewater treatment in Nottawa Township and the ensuing agreement will result in significant financial benefit for the affected residents and will protect the North Branch and the Chippewa River from E. coli contamination.

There’s been a lot of talk about police reform. What reform do you think needs to happen? What power do you think the State House holds over this?

Hauck: I think we can make a lot of progress on police reform in Michigan. I support more training requirements to become police officers as well as continuing education. I believe things like de-escalation tactics and implicit bias training are already being adopted by many departments but codifying in state law would ensure everyone is on the same page. With that being said, training costs money. The suggestion from those on the left that police departments should be defunded is ludicrous.

Zang: Police departments are only as good as the men and women who wear the badge. I am proud of the Mount Pleasant Police Department and its leaders. They are exemplary in their efforts to maintain equal treatment for all. 

I know this is not the case everywhere. I know there are issues of systemic racism in our society. State governments can do a great deal to make bias against Black, Latinx, Native Americans, LGBTQ and others less and less. School funding and infrastructure funding are examples of how to help, as is health care availability as well as monetary jail bond and sentencing requirements, and amending Michigan’s Elliot Larson law to protect LGBTQ rights, working to increase job opportunities and school/training for physically and mentally challenged residents, to name just a few.