Candidate for US Senate visits Great Lakes center

HOUGHTON – One of the candidates to replace retiring U.S. Senator Carl Levin visited Michigan Technological University Saturday.

Gary Peters, a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Bloomfield Township, went through the Great Lakes Research Center as part of a tour of the Upper Peninsula.

“I wanted to see this facility,” he said. “I’ve heard so much about it.”

Other stops included Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Munising, Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette, with groups such as small-business owners and loggers.

Peters pointed to his work to make loans available to small business owners. He was the principal author of the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which Peters said has created 5,500 jobs in Michigan and more than 50,000 across the country.

He said he seeks to balance the need to protect resources such as the Great Lakes with mining and forestry operations that can create jobs in the U.P.

“We want to do what we can do to make sure we grow the economy in the Upper Peninsula with good-paying middle-class jobs,” he said. “My focus has always been middle-class families and the challenges that families face every day.”

Peters is hoping to continue the Democratic hold on the Senate seat now belonging to Carl Levin, who was frist elected in 1978. He hopes to bring “practical problem-solving skills” to the Senate. His focus will be “kitchen table” issues of the kind brought up on his tour, such as the Affordable Care Act, which he backs; quality education; and providing security for retirement.

“Those are the kinds of things that motivate me, the stories that I hear,” he said.

Peters was also asked about President Obama’s Friday proposal for a $1 billion fund to help communities cope with climate change. Other recent announcements include several new hubs around the country to study and help mitigate the effects of climate change, including one in Houghton.

“There’s no question we need to understand the dynamics of climate change, one, to fully understand what’s happening, and to do modeling going forward of what will happen,” he said, approvingly citing the modeling being done using the new supercomputer at the GLRC. “We need to have a better understanding of that, and certainly this institution here in Houghton is positioned to be a world-class leader in understanding how climate change impacts local ecosystems.”

Democrats are looking to maintain their Senate majority; they hold 53 seats, while two independents typically vote with them.

Even with a majority, Democrats have found it difficult to enact much of their agenda due to a record number of filibusters, as well as other procedural moves.

Peters said the solution is to vote for candidates with a history of being able to work across partisan lines.

Peters brought up his work with the House Automotive Caucus, which he co-chairs with California Republican John Campbell. Also, the National Journal recently ranked Peters as the most moderate Democratic member of the Michigan U.S. House delegation.

“The people of the state of Michigan have to elect people who believe that we need to be practical problem-solvers, so it’s about the individuals that go to Congress, and whether or not they embrace it,” he said. “I embrace it.”