Michigan Senate candidates offer insight on gun control and mental health


Four Republican candidates are vying for the opportunity to serve the Midland area in the newly drawn 35th State Senate District. 

State Rep. Annette Glenn, of Midland; retired Dow Corning executive Chris Velasquez, of Midland; former State Rep. Tim Kelly, of Saginaw County; and retired Army Reserve colonel and medical doctor Martin Blank will all appear on the Aug. 2 ballot. The successful candidate will face Democratic candidate Kristen McDonald Rivet in the November general election. 

The State Senate district includes the cities of Midland, Saginaw, Bay City, Auburn, Essexville and Zilwaukee; six townships in eastern Midland County; six townships in northern Saginaw County; and nine townships in Bay County.

The Daily News sent the candidates our questions and asked them to keep their responses to fewer than 100 words. The Daily News lightly edited answers for clarity and style. Kelly did not provide responses. 

For more coverage on 95th State Representative District, visit ourmidland.com and read the “2022 Primary Election Voter Guide.”

If legislation that would effectively ban abortion in Michigan – in all forms and under all circumstances – came before you for a vote, would you vote to approve it? This requires a yes or no answer.  

BLANK: No. The bill must protect the life of the mother.

GLENN: No. Ending a pregnancy should be allowed if necessary to save the mother’s life.

VELASQUEZ: Biology informs us that life begins at conception. Abortion kills a life. Michigan currently has a law on the books that will be evaluated by the Michigan courts. When the courts make a ruling, and depending on that ruling, the legislature would take up the issue.

It’s possible that Michigan’s abortion law will change as guidelines move back to the states to decide. If Michigan’s law criminalizes abortion, would you support legislation that would allow police to arrest and prosecute mothers and abortion providers? 

BLANK: I do not support prosecuting women. I would support prosecuting individuals who perform illegal abortions.

GLENN: I support enforcement of state laws against abortionists who illegally take the lives of prenatal children. I oppose prosecution of pregnant mothers. Instead, we should ensure they are fully supported both before and after giving birth – with financial help, medical services, diapers and other infant supplies and mental health and spiritual counseling if they choose. That’s why I’ve long supported pregnancy resource centers such as Life Clinic Community Resources – LifeClinic.org – which has offices in Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties. 

VELASQUEZ: I am unaware of legislation requiring prosecution of mothers being introduced in Michigan. We have an opportunity to encourage more education on prevention and contraception. Our path forward can support an array of solutions that protect life.

With recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York and Oxford, many Michiganders are calling for gun control measures. Would you support or oppose universal background checks, assault weapon bans, high-capacity magazine bans, red flag laws or any other legislation that would limit the Second Amendment in Michigan? Explain your reasoning. 

BLANK: I support the 2nd Amendment as written. Our Founding Fathers provided four ways to amend our Constitution, which has been done 27 times, most recently in 1992. If opponents of the 2nd Amendment want to take a constitutional right away from their fellow citizens, they should follow the orderly process the Founding Fathers created.

GLENN: I’m the only candidate in this race endorsed by the National Rifle Association. I oppose passage of additional “gun control” laws that have only one practical effect: restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens. It’s simple common sense that only law-abiding citizens would obey such laws. The criminal or mentally deranged person willing to break already existing laws by using a gun to murder someone will obviously ignore any new laws too, which would have no effect whatsoever on criminal activity, as proven by the fact that gun crimes are the highest in Democrat-controlled cities that have the strictest gun control laws.

VELASQUEZ: Killing innocent people, especially children, is a tragedy. Focusing on root causes, such as mental health and wellness, is imperative. Michigan laws, when properly enforced and resourced, protect life while upholding our Constitution.

Should public school curriculum decisions fall solely to state education and local school officials? What if any input should parents have on what is taught in classrooms in areas such as history, government and science?  

BLANK: No. Parents must have a voice in the public-school curriculum. And so long as the state does not provide choice through educational vouchers, this is especially true for parents of modest means who cannot afford to send their children to private or parochial schools.

GLENN: State law provides: “It is the natural, fundamental right of parents to determine and direct the care, teaching and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents to develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe, positive environment.” After Michigan Democrats’ January Facebook post saying parents shouldn’t have any say in their children’s education, I introduced House Bill 5703 to require that current law be posted in every school office and school board meeting room. It passed the House 85-16 with bipartisan support.  

VELASQUEZ: Parents are the first teachers for their child and their best advocate. Parents must have a say in the education of their child. Michigan Department of Education established the role of the parent as a partner in their child’s education and ensures a positive educational setting. Specifically, “it is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive manner.”

Do you believe that critical race theory is being taught in Michigan’s elementary, middle and high schools? Please clearly answer yes or no and then explain your reasoning. 

BLANK: I’m not aware that it’s being explicitly taught in our area, but the concept’s influence is seeping into the classroom. State Superintendent Michael Rice acknowledged this during an August 2021 Michigan Board of Education meeting. Detroit Public School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti was more explicit about CRT’s influence saying, the district is “deeply using critical race theory.” (Source: Mlive.com, Dec. 22, 2021)

GLENN: Yes, Critical Race Theory is taught in some Michigan schools. ChalkBeat Detroit reported in November: “‘Our curriculum is deeply using Critical Race Theory, especially in social studies, but you’ll find it in English language arts and the other disciplines,’ said (Detroit Public Schools) Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. …Vitti reiterated that the district embraces the basic tenets of CRT.”
I believe in equal opportunity for all and strongly agree with Dr. King that all should be judged on the basis of their individual character, not their color. I oppose teaching children that they’re inherently oppressors, or inherently oppressed, based on their race.

VELASQUEZ: Critical Race Theory is being weaponized as a divisive political tool by both political parties. If the question is, “Should we teach and discuss history?” then my answer is yes.

Many Michiganders are dealing with higher costs at grocery stores and $5-a-gallon gas prices. What is one idea you would bring to Lansing to try to help Michigan residents trying to cope with rising inflation and gas prices? 

BLANK: The single fastest thing we can do is suspend the $0.27 per gallon gasoline tax, as well as the 6% sales tax on gasoline, which is effectively a tax on a tax.

GLENN: With a $7 billion surplus, lower taxes. As state representative, I’ve voted to suspend the state gas tax for six months, cut state income tax, triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for middle and lower-income families, and enact a $500-per-child state income tax credit. I support repeal of the Pension Tax and voted to exempt up to $40,000 of retirement income from state income tax. Unfortunately for taxpayers, all these tax relief measures were vetoed. I’ve also introduced legislation to repeal the annual gas tax increase that started in 2022, indexed to inflation, under a tax hike passed in 2015. 

VELASQUEZ: Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.” – Milton Friedman. Inflation is primarily caused by government spending. Michigan can prioritize spending on long-lasting infrastructure investments such as roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, airports, shipping ports, rail, energy production, and broadband. Further, Michigan can reduce taxes leaving hard-earned money in our citizens pockets.

After the 2020 general election, the integrity of U.S elections became a debated issue. Michigan was one of the states that often was cited by critics as having problems. Do you believe that the 2020 election in Michigan resulted in fair and honest results? Do you believe that a level of fraud occurred that resulted in an unfair and dishonest result? 

BLANK: At this point, re-litigating the past is a waste of time and energy. I’m focused on prospective proposals to strengthen our republic by safeguarding our elections. Among other things, that means requiring voter ID, something that’s common in western democracies.

GLENN: Polls consistently find one-third of Americans no longer have faith in the integrity of our elections, and that was before the release of the movie “2,000 Mules.” That’s why I signed a letter in 2020 urging a forensic audit, why I voted for the election integrity reforms detailed in response to the next question, and why I signed a recent letter urging the Attorney General to investigate the information presented by that movie. To restore voter confidence, such questions should be investigated – to the satisfaction of all Americans – by the new Republican Congress and Attorney General following this election. 

VELASQUEZ: Every day, voters in the new 35th District tell me that they want our elections to be fair and secure. Ensuring every vote is legitimate and that voters are confident that our elections are valid is worthy of discussion. 

What type of election reform, if any, would you support as state senator? 

BLANK: Voters should be required to present ID to vote. This is common and uncontroversial among the European countries where 46/47 require an ID to vote.

GLENN: I support requiring a photo ID to vote, and as state representative, voted in favor of other reforms: HBs 4837 and 4838, which prohibit connecting voting machines to the Internet and block private entities (such as billionaire Mark Zuckerberg) from accessing the voter file; HB 4127 to remove dead people from the voter file; HBs 4132 and 4133 to make it a felony to knowingly provide false information on an absentee application; and HBs 4845 and 4129 to require the Secretary of State to train local clerks how to lawfully verify absentee ballot signatures. I oppose so-called “National Popular Vote” legislation.

VELASQUEZ: Voter ID has polling numbers indicating over 80% support from the public. Modern verification technology or better signature identification could be utilized for mail in ballots. Additionally, current Michigan and federal laws should be strictly enforced.

Some states are considering, or have passed laws, banning transgender athletes from competing in sports with the gender they identify with. Would you support a similar bill in Michigan?   

BLANK: It’s a question of fairness. Biological females should not be forced to compete with biological males. A compromise would be to create a third, open division where anyone can compete.

GLENN: Yes. Forty years ago, in high school, I was a state champion in the Mile Relay. As a matter of principle, I’m committed to protecting women and girls from unfair demands that males be allowed to compete in women’s and girls’ sports. Polls indicate my commitment to protect women’s and girls’ sports is overwhelmingly supported by most Americans, including strong majorities in both parties. I led the House floor debate in support of language in our state K-12 budget requiring that only girls be allowed to participate in girls’ sports. That K-12 budget, including that language, passed with bipartisan support.

VELASQUEZ: Voluntary participation in sports can provide a boost to the physical and mental health of athletes. Between January 2020 and May 2021, 34 state legislatures introduced bills limiting the participation of transgender youth in sex-segregated sports. These bills reflect concern about genetic advantages in stature and strength. Working together, we can develop solutions that provide all athletes with an opportunity to participate in competitive sports.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled in favor of a public high school football coach who led the team in Christian prayers on the field. Another decision allowed taxpayer money to be used to pay to send students to attend religious schools in Maine. How would your religious beliefs impact your decision-making when you consider proposed legislation? Do you think faith should play any role in the job of an elected official? 

BLANK: An individual brings a whole assortment of characteristics and perspectives to public office. Their religiosity (or lack thereof) is only one. How a person performs as a legislator is influenced by their gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic background and educational attainment to name just a few. The only thing that should matter is whether they’re upholding their sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Michigan Constitution and the United States Constitution.

GLENN: Yes, a lawmaker’s faith and worldview will impact his or her performance as an elected official. In my experience, voters value authenticity, and I’ve made clear that my faith in Jesus Christ defines me, my worldview, the sense of duty I feel to be of public service to my fellow citizens and our community and the moral values and standards by which I judge legislation. The old line, “You can’t legislate morality,” is inaccurate. Someone’s sense of morality – their moral judgments, values, and priorities – is legislated every single time a bill becomes law. My worldview is traditionally Christian. 

VELASQUEZ: Laws that limit the free practice of one’s faith when it doesn’t harm others are as much an attack on liberty as a law that forces a faith practice on an individual. The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States sums up my perspective: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

As state senator, explain one idea you would bring to Lansing to improve mental health care for Michiganders. 

BLANK: I’m old enough to remember when schools had an on-site nurse. In addition to tending to scrapes and bruises, they served as a community’s eyes and ears when students were struggling with mental health challenges. Teachers teach. They’re not medical professionals, and we shouldn’t expect that of them. But if we reintroduce professionally trained nurses to our school districts, I believe we can provide early treatment and referral services for many of our young people with mental health challenges.
Additionally, virtually every school (middle schools, high school, and college) provides students with an ID…. (Editor’s note: this answer was 63 words longer that the 100-word maximum

GLENN: As state representative, I introduced HB 5889 to make communications between human trafficking victims and their mental health counselors inadmissible in court without the victim’s consent, protection we already give sexual assault and domestic violence victims. I introduced HB 4875 to revoke the medical license of individuals convicted of sexual assault under pretext of medical treatment. As House Appropriations K-12 Subcommittee vice-chair, I supported funding to give students immediate access to on-campus mental health counseling during the school day. To combat a statewide shortage, I supported legislation to allow retired mental health professionals to resume working without losing their pensions.  

VELASQUEZ: Recently, I met Buck Myre whose son, Tate, was killed during the Oxford school shooting. When the system failed, Mr. Myre answered the call for help when he founded 42 Strong Foundation. This foundation helps students develop a greater sense of purpose, community and resilience through peer-to-peer mentoring. I want to leverage my experience in coalition building to unite business, education, philanthropy, healthcare, government and other stakeholders in creating solutions to better serve Michiganders. In addition to private sector solutions, we can review and enhance the talent pipeline to ensure everyone has adequate access to quality mental health care.

Michigan’s auto insurance reform has helped many save money on auto insurance, but it also has stripped away financial support for residents who have suffered catastrophic injuries in auto accidents. What can be done to provide necessary support for disabled crash survivors and yet keep insurance premiums more manageable for Michigan families? 

BLANK: Since insurance reforms took place in July 2020, more than 200,000 Michigan drivers have purchased insurance, with nearly half coming from drivers who didn’t have car insurance for the prior three years. Additionally, more than 40 insurance companies have entered the Michigan market. More consumer participation and greater competition will continue to apply downward pressure on costs while encouraging better insurance products. Greater freedom and the opening up the marketplace has worked for the overwhelming majority of Michigan drivers.

GLENN: In fact, state law mandates that catastrophic accident victims continue to receive all the medical services they need. If anyone is not receiving needed services, please contact my legislative office at 517-373-1791 or annetteglenn@house.mi.gov so I can assist in ensuring the law is obeyed and necessary services are provided. The landmark auto insurance reform demanded by Michigan voters – which has saved drivers hundreds of dollars per vehicle on what used to be the highest auto insurance rates in the nation – did not “strip away” financial support from catastrophic accident victims. 

VELASQUEZ: Michigan continues to have some of the most expensive auto insurance rates in the nation with its unique no-fault system.  Decisions about further reforms will benefit from additional study. Having time to study the benefits and consequences of the recently implemented reforms will help inform decision-making.

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