Michigan State Rep. Edward “Ned” Canfield, R-Sebewaing, says he has a lot more work to do in Lansing, but he faces two challengers with different ideas in next week’s general election.
Democratic challenger James Wencel, D-Bad Axe, and write-in candidate Chuck Stadler of Vassar Township, are taking on the incumbent Canfield. The winner will represent Michigan House of Representatives’ 84th district, which consists of Tuscola and Huron counties.
Wencel and Canfield are set to make their case to area voters tonight at a “meet the candidates” event set for 7 p.m. at the Caro Area District Library, 840 Frank St., Caro.
“I am someone who has tried to do a good job…I bring many different traits to the table being a physician, a farmer, a father, and a grandfather now, former business owner and current business owner,” Canfield told The Advertiser. “I’ve been telling people I don’t need this job, but I want to do this job. I think I’ve done a pretty good job over the last two years and I want to continue to do it for the next two years.”
Not so fast, says Wencel, who claims Canfield makes promises he doesn’t keep and is out of touch with those he’s supposed to represent, especially when it comes to education-related issues.
Canfield and Wencel have faced off against each other in the past. In the 2014 election, Wencel ran as a Republican candidate for the same seat, finishing fourth in Tuscola County and second overall behind Canfield in the August primary.
“Mr. Canfield told me he was going to use me as one of his education experts and then never called me,” Wencel said. “He knew my background and flat out told me he didn’t know about school and things and how it works and…he never called.
“I’m not happy with Mr. Canfield’s performance.”
Canfield, a U.S. Navy veteran, has lived in Sebewaing for more than two decades, is married, and a father of four. His professional background includes work as a family physician, small-scale farmer, and small business owner. He also served as a board member for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Canfield most recently practiced at the Caro Medical Clinic in Caro. Previously, he ran the Canfield Family Practice with his wife. He said he hasn’t practiced since last December, but plans to soon begin working on a part-time basis in an urgent care setting “in the thumb of Michigan.”
He told The Advertiser it’s important for him to be in office because physicians are dramatically underrepresented in Michigan’s legislative body.
Canfield is endorsed by numerous organizations, including Right to Life of Michigan, Michigan Corn Growers, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Michigan Association of Police Organizations, Michigan Manufacturers Association, and more.
Canfield was elected in 2014 after replacing Terry L. Brown, D-Pigeon, who term-limited out after being elected a third time in 2012.
Canfield takes the position that he is “not a politician” and that he represents “the cure for big government.” Further, he said that his intention was not to go to Lansing to represent a political party, but the voters who elected him.
“When you’re elected to represent a district, that’s something that has to be in the back of your mind,” Canfield said. “It has to be ‘What does your district think? What do the people want? What is the best that we can do?’
“You’re trying to do two thing: move your district forward and move Michigan forward.”
Canfield is a member on the House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Transportation. He also serves on the appropriations subcommittees on the Department of Agriculture, Department of Community Health, Department of Corrections and Department of Education.
Among his biggest achievements, he said, has been his involvement in putting together a package of bills to secure funding for Michigan roads after, in 2015, voters turned down Proposal 1 – which called for increased sales tax and other changes to raise money for roads.
While calling the package “not perfect,” Canfield said “It was a good compromise and I think it will really help our roads in our state and in Huron and Tuscola counties as well.”
Canfield’s HB 4440 alone shifted $25.8 million from the Transportation Economic Development Fund to be used by the Michigan Department of Transportation to match available federal aid highway funds, among other road projects. After being signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in July, it is now PA 273.
Canfield also said he’s proud of being part of the House Appropriations Committee that helped find a solution to bailing out Detroit Public Schools financially without costing districts like those he represents in Huron and Tuscola counties.
“We listened to unending testimony about Detroit Public Schools and what to do about, and came up with a plan,” Canfield said. “The thing that I’m very proud of about the plan we came up with is, number one, it did not hurt our school districts.
“If the Detroit Public Schools had gone bankrupt, it would have affected every district,” he added.
Despite his success, Canfield says he has more to do and wants to see through “several bills in place right now.”
Among them are bills to protect unborn babies of mothers who abuse drugs while pregnant, addressing the need for more medical care in rural setting, and another to eliminate requirements for physicians of a certain age to re-take board certification exams every 10 years.
“Doctors in my age group are stopping practicing because they just don’t want to take another test,” he said. “It’s just making doctors jump through hoops.”
But before Canfield can see those bills through, he has to make it past his challengers.
Wencel, married with four children, has a professional background that includes serving as a superintendent of Bad Axe Public Schools (retired, 2010), superintendent Owendale-Gagetown Area Schools, and principal within Mayville Public Schools.
Wencel is a member of several organizations, including the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, Michigan Farm Bureau, Huron County Right to Life, Michigan Association of School Business Officials, and the Michigan School Board Association and the School Equity Caucus, among others.
Wencel has identified priorities as creation and retention of good-paying jobs, helping solve what he called “Michigan’s road-funding problem,” reducing taxes on retirement savings, support for veterans, and “100 percent of life at every stage.”
Wencel also has identified issues related to senior citizens at priorities, including reducing taxes on retirement savings, and coordinating of funding for programs that provide services to senior citizens.
Wencel says it’s time for Canfield to go, largely because he believes Canfield almost always votes the party line, pointing to his “yes” vote in favor of a controversial law passed in late 2015 that would restrict how local and school officials communicate with their residents about ballot proposals and millage issues. The law was later changed.
He told The Advertiser he worries that Canfield will sell out constituents and agree to support special interest groups such as those lead by Dick DeVos and the wealthy DeVos family based in Grand Rapids.
DeVos recently stated publicly that ending public employees’ pension benefits is the top public policy priority in Michigan.
“This system that would cost the state $2 billion and they know that,” Wencel said. “My question is, is (Canfield) going to vote for that?”
Wencel said in general he’s not happy with Canfield’s performance in office and also worries about privatization of resources such as the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans – and that Canfield will support such measures.
Wencel said his own strenght is his background in education gives him an inside track to being involved in education-related issues and initiatives, such as restoring funds to education “along with practical reforms to improve our schools.”
“Education is my top priority along with senior citizens who seem to get short-changed at every step,” Wencel told The Advertiser.
“We need positive people making educated decisions that will create good paying jobs and that starts with having a good public school system that is adequately funded,” Wencel said in a statement on his website. ”I hear about job creation in the state but what I am not hearing anymore is that we need to create good paying jobs with benefits. If elected I will be looking at how the state of Michigan spends our tax dollars and other revenues that the state takes in.”
Wencel and write-in candidate Stadler also have faced off in the past. In the August primary, Wencel defeated Stadler 775-611 to win the Democratic nomination.
Stadler has identified his top priorities as “ better-paying jobs, school funding, college grants, and opening markets.”
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com