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      Political candidates speak on family issues

      Many supporters gathered for Gary McDowell sporting anti-Benishek signs outside the Peter White Public Library.

      The Peter White Public Library in Marquette was packed Thursday night for a political candidate forum. The Upper Peninsula Children's Coalition invited ten political candidates running for office.

      No political ads and no scripts, the forum makes political candidates speak directly to the public about topics concerning children and families. This is the third time a forum like this has been held in Marquette.

      "These races, in a lot of ways, are more important than the national races because the local positions will most likely end up affecting a person's day-to-day life more than a national race," said Paul Olson, forum moderator and representative from the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development.

      Each candidate gave a two-minute opening address and then were asked a total of 14 randomly chosen questions on topics like health care and education for children, college student debt, and substance abuse. Discussions became heated when the 108th District candidates were asked about supporting equal pay for women in the workforce.

      "We know in this country right now, we have many statistics that women are more than ever reaching high-powered positions, more than ever earning more money than they have before," said Ed McBroom (R), 108th District Representative.

      "Mr. McBroom, I've been a woman in the workforce for a long time, and I can tell you that making more than ever is not making equal pay," responded Sharon Gray (D), candidate for the 108th District.

      The Upper Peninsula Children's Coalition organized the forum and invited both Michigan 1st District Congressman Dan Benishek and Congressional Candidate Gary McDowell to the forum. They also invited all eight state representative candidates for Upper Michigan: for 107th District, Suzanne Shumway (D) and Frank Foster (R); for 108th District, Ed McBroom (R) and Sharon Gray (D); for 109th District, John Kivela (D) and Jack Hubbard (R); and for 110th District, Matt Huuki (R) and Scott Dianda (D).

      Congressman Benishek and 110th District State Representative Huuki were unable to attend.

      "This is the second time today that I've been left at the altar..." said Scott Dianda (D), candidate for the 110th District.

      "Congressman Benishek, he voted for a budget that sliced student aid, Pell Grants. It's so important here in Northern Michigan to make sure our children have that opportunity to get an education," said Gary McDowell (D), 1st Congressional District candidate. McDowell had a strong number of supporters present. Many of his supporters were the same people that hung an anti-Benishek sign over US Highway 41 earlier that day and displayed more signs outside the library saying things like "Where's Dr. Dan?"

      Congressman Benishek was attending a conference in Gaylord as a part of his "32 in 32" tour. Moderator Olson emphasized the importance of this forum for voters.

      "It matters that people vote at every level, right all the way down to the bottom of their ballot on November 6th," Olson said.