MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Ahead of the Candidate Forum for the 109th District of the Michigan State House of Representatives, Local 3’s Haley Schoengart caught up with three of the four candidates and asked each of them the same questions, and here are their responses.

What sets you apart from the other candidates running?

“I am the one candidate running for this seat that is born and raised in this district and I feel that it gives me the ability to know the pulse of the district and what is important culturally, socially, and the interests of the people who live here,” Joe Boogren said.

“My background and my service in life,” Melody Wagner said. “I can relate with almost everyone with the work that I’ve done. Also with my farming I owned and operated my own dairy farm. I’m a worker, I know how to work, and we need to get back to work.”

“With that 30 years of experience in community action, I’ve done everything from start a nonprofit and win national awards to working in state government before,” Jenn Hill said. “I’ve been elected twice and I will show up, listen and do my homework.”

What are the biggest issues you would want to tackle if you got to Lansing?

“One of the big ones is the disparity in the state of Michigan with respect to employees who were laid off, unemployment benefits, comparatively speaking,” Boogren said. “As an example, in Michigan, it’s 20 weeks long and it’s about $340 a week and in very nearby Minnesota it’s 26 weeks and $740 a week that is too much of a disparity to be rational.”

“The number one issue is the fact that we are dead last in the nation and ethics, accountability, and transparency in all three branches of government, especially our legislation,” Wagner said. “They have failed to serve the people effectively. They have hidden their records. I hope to get our FOIA passed, the Freedom of Information Act which is for the legislation to bring sunshine to the people of Michigan through our legislation working properly. I think I feel if it works at the top, it’s going to work at the bottom for our local departments also.”

“Well, I know housing is a huge question both rental housing and affordable housing,” Hill said. “Even seniors wanting to move on but not being sure where to go. All levels of housing for all parts of your life are actually getting to be too unaffordable here and we need to address that. I’m also hearing a lot about childcare and health care and those costs and that availability and how that’s really hurting people’s ability to go back to work if they do want to work. Another issue is of course the rising costs that we’re facing and how the state government can impact that.”

What are some challenges you hear on the campaign trail that are most effective to Yooper’s lives?

“People are very concerned about health care and health care costs,” Boogren said. “It’s the new norm in the United States is that health care is a family’s largest expense and it used to always be the mortgage than it was your car now it’s health care. So we’ve got to do something about that and particularly with respect to people who have a requiring need for medicine like insulin and those kinds of things. Those need to be capped and need to be reasonable for a family to afford or a person to afford.”

“Our loss of population up here,” Wagner said. “Several and almost all of our counties lost population and people are leaving the state and we haven’t been able to stop it. They give up on getting justice and they give up on trying to survive. The U.P. I noticed right from the start, it’s a very hard place to live. Our severe winters cause extreme depression and we have severe mental health, which is also at the top on my platform.”

“I’ve knocked on doors in all the counties in the district and housing, mental health issues, health care, access to health care, the childcare question, and just how do we bring back some economic security to this region,” Hill said.

The primary election will be held on August 2. The winners from each party will then advance to the general election in November.

To watch the full Candidate Forum, click here.