LANSING (Great Lakes News) – Kalamazoo County is known for its intense State House races.
In 2018, candidates raised and spent a combined total of $1.55 million to represent the 61st Congressional District. Incumbent Rep. Brandt Iden only won by 1283 votes after an intense and costly campaign. Now Iden is officially term limited out, and in his place is Republican candidate Bronwyn Haltom. Haltom entered the race with a large personal donation to her own campaign, granting her a strong fundraising lead and establishing herself as an early front runner among Republicans. Q3 fundraising reports have Haltom sitting at $130,145 in fundraising, the highest amount held by any candidate for the State House. GLN profiled Haltom, who expects to use that momentum to claim victory in Michigan’s 61st Congressional District.
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Christine Morse is currently the only Democrat currently running for Iden’s now-vacant seat. She was born and raised in Tecumseh, Michigan and attended MSU university for a Political Science Pre-Law degree in the 90’s. Morse later acquired a Juris Doctor from Wayne State University Law School in 1998. After her husband joined the Navy, Morse put her career on hold and traveled the world before settling down Kalamazoo in 2010.
In 2018, Morse decided to run for Kalamazoo County Commissioner.
“I felt like I had the opportunity to make a difference in the community,” Morse said. “The seat was open.”
Morse originally considered running against Brandt Iden.
“I realized that, not having been super active in the community at the time, I probably wasn’t right for it yet,” Morse said. “So, when the opportunity came up for me to run for the County Commission seat it was a great way for me to start to get involved.”
While working as a County Commissioner, Morse learned several lessons about leadership and the proper relationship between public officials and their constituents. For Morse, representation is the name of the game.
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“Public office means representing the people that have voted you into office,” Morse said. “So, it’s really conveying the will of those who put you in that position to the best of your ability. Now, you’re not going to make 100 percent of the people happy 100 percent of the time, especially in this divisive culture that we live in. But, I think that’s what we should be doing in public service to the best of our ability.”
Time spent on the Commission also put her in direct contact with the issues that counties face when communicating with the state government. The primary issue being the Great Lakes’ rising water levels and their impact on local communities.
“The roadblocks that you see responding to an emergency of this nature, and considering the fact that this is due to climate change, shows us that we should be proactive in planning for a future,” Morse said. “Lake Michigan is at record high levels, which I am sure is impacting our groundwater as well, so I think moving forward we should take this lesson that life is offering and learn from it.”
Campaign finance is at the front of More’s mind, but she is not too worried about her opponents early fundraising lead. Morse reported $27,130 in Q3, her first recorded fundraising quarter. This is about $2,000 less than Haltom, but still one of the largest hauls in Michigan. Morse also made a point to mention that Haltom is largely self financed, and that she still has yet to spend a single dime of those campaign funds while Mores has spent $10,481.
“We feel really confident in our start,” Morse said. “We have a year to go. Yes, Brondywn has a lot of money on hand but that’s due in part that she gave herself almost $70 thousand so obviously they are going to have a huge lead. For us it’s about building the support from the community, the community is investing in you running.”
Morse hopes to build that relationship with the community through a classic political combination: doors and dollars.
“It’s about knocking on as many doors as you can and raising the money so you can get all the other outreach you need,” Morse said. “Talking to the people makes such a huge difference. Even if you are not on the same page politically, the fact that you are putting the effort out to knock on their door to ask their opinion means a lot.”
She has yet to knock on a single door for this campaign, in stark contrast to Haltom who claims to have knocked on thousands of doors, but her time campaigning for county commissioner helped her understand issues that matter to her constituents. Primary among them being education.
“Public education funding is something I would like to impact,” Morse said. “I think we are doing the state of Michigan as a whole a huge disservice by not investing in our education. What we want to show people is opportunity, show them that we are able to provide for people all the way down to their children. We need to show that we invest in our people.”
Ultimately, Morse believes that in order for the Michigan legislature to work properly some compromise needs to be made. She holds frustration for those in Lansing unwilling to have a conversation and reach bi-partisan conclusions, and hopes she can carry the dialogue skills she’s learned on countless doorsteps to the House.
“We have both sides to represent,” Morse said. “Every district has both sides to represent. Every representative has both sides to represent. So, this era of no compromise is really not working for anyone.”
If Morse can survive the primary, her campaign against “no compromise” will come to the test on November 3, 2020.