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Local News / Politics

Friday, 29 October, 2010 1:39 AM

Gary Peters, Rocky Raczkowski square off at debate in Farmington Hills

Other candidates Douglas Campbell and Dr. Matthew Kuofle also spoke at JCRC Election Forum


Candidates Gary Peters (incumbent) and Rocky Raczkowski address the JCRC Election Forum in Farmington Hills, Mich. on Oct. 24, 2010.

by Jason Rzucidlo


FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. -- Mara McDonald said it wasn't a debate. But it sure seemed liked one. The WDIV-TV Local 4 reporter served as the moderator of an election forum hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). It took place last Sunday at the Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Mich. All six candidates for Michigan's 9th district seat in the U.S. House were invited to attend the event.

However, only four of them showed up -- Gary Peters (D), Rocky Raczkowski (D), Douglas Campbell (G) and Dr. Matthew Kuofle (NPA). The remaining two candidates for that seat -- Adam Goodman (Lib) and Bob Gray (NPA), did not attend the event. The election forum was free and open to the public.

Much of the debate took place between Peters and Raczkowski. Nearly every time one of the two spoke, the other wanted a rebuttal. The hottest item of contention was the negative ads that both candidates are airing about each other.

"Why are you demonizing me in negative advertising that are lies?" Raczkowski asked. "Mr. Peters has two nasty ads plus a door-to-door piece. Even the fliers that I see that I want to bankrupt social security, I want to send jobs to China, I want to increase sales tax by 23 percent, I'm this bad thief and crook. Folks, they're all lies. That's why I filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Peters. Mr. Peters can say that they are all true but they are not, they are blatant lies. I spent my whole life building my character and my integrity."

"What I have found is that when people have a hard time arguing the facts, they engage in name calling," Peters answered. "That's what we've seen here is name calling by my opponent. The ad regarding the lawsuit that Mr. Raczkowski filed, the defamation suit that he says he won't drop, he won't have to be worried about that. It's going to be thrown out of court. It's going to be a frivolous lawsuit. He won't have to take any action on that. A potential employer would want to know whether or not that potential employee is being sued in federal court for fraud, theft and conspiracy. I certainly believe that it is important for voters to have that information."

All four candidates were given two minutes for an introduction and two minutes for a closing. They also discussed hot-button issues such as health care, the economy, the war on terrorism, Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks.

"I joined the United States Navy Reserves, served as a lieutenant commander," said Democratic candidate Gary Peters. "Although I was embarking on a different career path two years ago, I was very concerned about the direction of the country. The folks in Congress are more focused on partisan ideology than about taking particular party positions. Look at the challenges that we're facing in this country to work those out. It's about job creation, I'm a champion for small businesses, where the engine of growth is in our economy. We need to end outsourcing as we continue to ship jobs overseas."

"Twenty four years I've served in the United States military," said Republican candidate Rocky Raczkowski. "I came back 58 weeks ago from serving in the war on terror. It's Congress that controls our lives in one respect or another. I'm sitting here before you as one who believes in less government intervention, less taxes and more personal freedom. I stand as a strong supporter of Israel. I served in the State House. I was honored to serve as the youngest majority leader right here from Farmington Hills."

"The Green party is well known for its environmental activism," said Green party candidate Douglas Campbell. "There's only so far you can go without engaging the political sphere. We're proposing to look at the history of the nation and the world. Repeat the successes of the past and avoid the failures of the past. We're not supporters of Cap and Trade, for example. We are also the clean money candidates. My campaign along with every other Green campaign in the country is not accepting any moneys from political action committees, corporations, 527cs or lobbyists."

"We propose a solution to the Washington government that I will follow," said independent candidate Dr. Matthew Kuofle. "It focuses on three entities -- the academia, the business and the government. We also look at the technology, finance and accounting structures. We also know that technology is the one that will move all these factors into place."

Peters said he thinks the United States should partner with China and Russia to help stop Iran from using nuclear weapons. The audience booed. Raczkowski offered a rebuttal and said that the U.S. should continue to support Israel.

"You can just imagine what a nuclear Iran means again not just for Israel, but for the security of our entire planet," the democratic candidate said. "We have to be very aggressive in bringing other countries together, particularly the Chinese and the Russians. We have to get tough. I'm a co-sponsor of the Iran sanctions bill to give the president tougher tools to bring sanctions forward. Certainly war should be the last option. The Iranian government needs to know that this is serious."

The Republican candidate offered a follow-up: "The Chinese and the Russians at the table? They will not support this. They will never be our friends and the Russians are the ones that are feeding Iran."

When asked if bailing out the banks and the automotive industry was a good move, three of the candidates agreed except for one. Douglas Campbell, the Green party candidate, disagreed.

Michigan's 9th congressional district includes the cities of Auburn Hills, Berkley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Clawson, Farmington Hills, Farmington, Keego Harbor, Lake Angelus, Orchard Lake Village, Pontiac, Rochester Hills, Rochester, Royal Oak, Sylvan Lake and Troy. It also includes the townships of Bloomfield, Oakland, Orion, Royal Oak, West Bloomfield, Waterford and Independence. All of those cities and townships are located within Oakland County.

Michigan Supreme Court candidates, Proposal One discussed

The election forum began with an explanation of the Michigan Supreme Court candidates and Michigan Proposal One. Robert Sedler, a distinguished professor of law at Wayne State University spoke about the first topic while Justin Long, a WSU professor of state constitutionalism explained the second item on the ballot.

Candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court are listed as non-partisan on the ballot. However, all five of the candidates are aligned with one political party or another. Alton Thomas "Tom" Davis and Denise Langford Morris are the Democratic candidates. Mary Beth Kelly and Robert Young Jr. are the Republican candidates. Bob Roddis represents the Libertarian party.

"For most people the important courts are the state courts," Sedler said. "It's the state courts that deal with the questions in our everyday lives. They have cases about automobile accidents, landlord tenant disputes, divorce, family matters. In Michigan, we've had a long history of electing our state court judges. Unlike the federal judges who are appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate. The people of Michigan have basically said, 'We want to elect our judges.'"

Michigan's Proposal One (10-1) will ask voters whether or not to hold a state constitutional convention to draft a general revision of the state constitution. If approved, the convention would be convened in 2011. The last time this was held was back in 1963. However, it could cost as much as $45 million. Two special elections would be required to take place before the convention could begin. After all of the work was done, the final results would have to be approved again by the voters.

"The convention would hire its own staff, including its own administrative staff, it's own experts," Long said. "Advocates want a convention for structural reform. There are a variety of ideas changing how the government of Michigan works. Some of the structural ideas would be to move to a unicameral legislature, meaning to have just one house. Another idea would be to consolidate local government. Some local governments themselves have argued they need more flexibility in financing. One possibility would be that those opposed to electing judges could use the constitutional convention as a way to put in a different system of selecting judges."

The WSU professor of state constitutionalism added: "I'd like to suggest some arguments why opponents to the convention will vote no. Once you start the convention, you don't have a lot of control of what it comes up with. The last chance for that kind of control by the people come from the folks who ratify what the convention produces or not. Voters may be faced with some parts of the document they really like and some parts that are less attractive. They'll have to choose to vote yes or no on the whole thing. Once that box is open, there's no limit on what the convention can discuss."

Michigan's Proposal Two (10-2) will ask voters whether or not to amend the state constitution to prohibit certain felons from holding elective office and specified types of public employment positions. If approved, a person convicted of a felony would be ineligible to hold office.

For more information on the Jewish Community Relations Council, visit

Click here to visit's Election Center with stories, videos, polls, candidate lists and more. Return to that page on Nov. 2 for complete election results.



Candidates for Michigan's 9th District Seat in the U.S. House: Douglass Campbell (G), Dr. Matthew Kuofle (NPA), Gary Peters (D) and Rocky Raczkowski (R).



WSU Distinguished Professor of Law Robert Sedler explains the Michigan Supreme Court candidates.



WSU Professor of State Constitutionalism Justin Long explains Michigan's Proposal One.



WDIV-TV Local 4 reporter Mara McDonald served as the moderator.



A representative from the Jewish Community Relations Council welcomed everyone to the Adat Shalom synagogue.


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