63rd District candidates in crowded state House race get specific on priorities

·7 min read
St. Clair County Jay DeBoyer at the St. Clair County Administrative Office Building in Port Huron on Thursday, April 22, 2022.
St. Clair County Jay DeBoyer at the St. Clair County Administrative Office Building in Port Huron on Thursday, April 22, 2022.

For several candidates running for state representative in Michigan’s new 63rd District, there may not be a lengthy policy wish list to tackle if they win.

But when asked, goals in shared areas — be it business, agriculture or local water resources — begin to emerge on both sides of the aisle.

Two familiar faces, Kelly Noland and Jamie Murray, are competing for the district’s Democratic nod in the Aug. 2 primary, while two sitting St. Clair County elected officials and a Macomb County Trump supporter are vying on the Republican side.

The primary winners will square off in the November general election.

The 63rd largely replaces parts of the current 32nd and 81st House districts. In St. Clair County, it encompasses Clay, China, Cottrellville, East China, and Ira townships, as well as Algonac, Marine City, and St. Clair, and also Casco Township south of Lindsay Road.

It also covers a portion of eastern Macomb County, including the Chesterfield area, where Republican newcomer Jacky Eubanks hails from. In August, she’ll face St. Clair County Clerk Jay DeBoyer and Algonac City Councilman Jake Skarbek.

A former staffer for the last Trump presidential campaign and an election worker, according to her campaign website and social media, Eubanks regularly proliferates unfounded claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 election results.

In addition to election reform, she cites issues with discussions about race and gender identification in schools, mask and vaccine mandates, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and more, as part of her platform.

After several phone calls and messages, the 2020 college graduate declined to answer questions, telling the Times Herald via text on Wednesday, “No comment, thanks for understanding."

Jake Skarbek, Algonac city councilman.
Jake Skarbek, Algonac city councilman.

DeBoyer and Skarbek said they consider themselves conservative Republicans, pointing to a range of support for traditional constitutional rights, individual liberties and small government. On her social media, Eubanks has identified as an “anti-neocon,” touting a Trump endorsement and taking aim at established Republicans, including one of her opponents, over election issues.

Elections a big — but not only — concern for Republicans

In April, Eubanks posted an aggregate link with allegations about St. Clair County, DeBoyer, and local election results in November 2020.

Rumors that the county dumped votes for Donald Trump originally went viral the day after the general election when then-Rep. Shane Hernandez speculated on Facebook about low absentee voter turnout in two Marysville precincts. The AV ballot totals were ultimately updated when DeBoyer’s staff returned to work following a late night.

DeBoyer has been outspoken in the past in supporting local election workers, and he’s never alleged widespread fraud issues in how election results are tallied. He said however, it was important that state lawmakers address voters’ confidence in the processes they use to cast a ballot.

The mass mailing of absentee ballots applications from the secretary of state and directives to be generous in the review of return signatures were examples of sources of potential concern, he said.

St. Clair County Clerk Jay DeBoyer works with a group of people to canvas election results Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in the Dodge Auditorium at the St. Clair County administration building.
St. Clair County Clerk Jay DeBoyer works with a group of people to canvas election results Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in the Dodge Auditorium at the St. Clair County administration building.

“Those are things that, irrespective of your position, dilute the security and the sanctity and the belief in the outcome of an election,” DeBoyer said. “... I think legislatively, we need action that tightens up the discretionary decisions of the secretary of state’s office.”

DeBoyer, who lives in Clay Township, also talked about tightening up voter rolls.

Algonac City Councilman Jake Skarbek, front right, stands with a group of officials and other residents near the council dais in Algonac.
Algonac City Councilman Jake Skarbek, front right, stands with a group of officials and other residents near the council dais in Algonac.

When asked about the 2020 election, Skarbek, 23, said he did “believe there were some wrong votes.”

“However, I’m not going to run my whole campaign on that,” he said Wednesday. “That’s not me. That’s not what I’m going to support. I am a person that likes to look at the future.”

Instead, Skarbek talks about the other concerns from voters he’s learned about door-knocking during his campaign. Public education, economic growth and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, veterans, hunting and fishing rights, and the Second Amendment were all among them.

“Everything that’s going on in the local and state government is what made me come up with this list, and this is what we’re going to support throughout our campaign and as a state representative,” Skarbek said. “… I don’t want to be a one-issue candidate. I want to be a broad candidate so that everyone knows where I’ll stand and what I’ll support.”

Kelly Noland speaks with constituents at an Armada Chamber of Commerce meeting when she was running in a congressional primary in 2020. She is now running for the state House as a Democrat.
Kelly Noland speaks with constituents at an Armada Chamber of Commerce meeting when she was running in a congressional primary in 2020. She is now running for the state House as a Democrat.

2 Democrats look to stand out in August

After sitting in the “cheap seats” in following state and local issues for several years, Jamie Murray said she is ready to try and find a seat at the table in the 63rd’s Democratic primary.

The East China 58-year-old has never served in or run for major office and did not promote a concrete list of priorities if elected — or at least not yet.

Murray said she thought it was important to ensure people don't run unopposed.

“I think it’s time that somebody that’s not an insider to be at the table, and I think that’s what you’re seeing with a lot of the candidates,” she said.

Meanwhile, Democrat Kelly Noland of Chesterfield has run for office before, returning to the political sphere from an unsuccessful congressional bid in 2020.

She said she still considers herself a “newbie” and not a politician — now with the hope to get deeper than “kitchen table issues” of congressional races.

“This is where all your tax dollars go. All the funding through your school, your emergency services, your roads. This is where it’s happening,” Noland said.

Murray, who runs a demolition company with her husband, may already be well-known to residents active on social media through her son Kevin Lindke’s Facebook page, where she’s often participated in discussions, advocating for children and outing registered sex offenders in establishments where she believes kids could be in danger. Those discussions also broadly target state and county judicial systems and circuit court and local government figures, wielding corruption allegations.

“I just really want to be a voice. I think people are afraid that they don’t have a voice, or they’re afraid to use it,” she said. “… I have seen the corruption. I have seen the privileged power. I have seen where people are scared into not speaking up or speaking out, and I just think that everybody should have the same opportunities.”

Noland, 53, said she

wants to focus on the needs for mental health services through available shelters and programs for the homeless and to see it better addressed in law enforcement.

“People that should not be falling through the cracks are falling through the cracks, and we are not servicing them,” Noland said. “It’s a repeat cycle.”

An Army veteran and retired nurse, Noland sees shared themes with other candidates.

“They’d probably be more pro-gun,” she said of the three Republicans. “… I look at what I see from the standpoint of the hospital, seeing people coming in. I have no problem with guns. ... But what I do have a problem with is that weapon getting into the wrong person’s hands. That’s the sticking point.”

Other issues cited by candidates

Skarbek, a real estate agent and owner of a commercial cleaning company, first joined Algonac’s council in 2018. His current term ends this year. He said he thought his city office experience would be beneficial in the role of state legislator.

DeBoyer, 51, has been county clerk since 2011 and previously served as Clay Township supervisor. He, too, thought his experience would translate well as a state lawmaker..

Both also talked about addressing ways to support economic growth if elected.

Skarbek said he thought entrepreneurs were “getting taxed to death,” adding, “We need to focus on giving them incentives to benefit them.”

DeBoyer said the state and communities need a better way to measure the long-term effectiveness and payback of the incentives, such as state program funding and local tax abatements, often used to attract new business and development.

Citing their district’s access to the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, both DeBoyer and Noland talked about representing interests of water and the Great Lakes. Murray also touched on the water but did not get specific.

Noland particularly pointed to the effect of “forever” PFAs chemicals and plastics pollution on the Great Lakes.

"Tourism is our lifeblood up here, and if we don’t have clean waterways, obviously we lose the tourism industry," she said. "It just makes sense to keep it clean. I would definitely be a proponent of (combating) invasive species and things like that.”

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: 63rd District candidates in crowded state House race get specific on priorities