Election 2022: Candidates for Michigan Representative District 75 in their own words

·22 min read

On this year's ballot are members from both branches of the Michigan Legislature (the state House of Representatives and Senate). If you are unsure which legislative district you vote in, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center to find more information — including your sample ballot customized to your home address.

Whether you choose to vote absentee or in person, get to know the candidates before you vote by reading their responses to key issues facing Michiganders.

Here (below) are candidates in their own words. To return to the main election package, click here.

Meet the candidates

Don Keskey (Democrat): I was born and raised in the far Western Upper Peninsula community of Ironwood Michigan. Upon graduation from high school, I attended Northern Michigan University. I crossed the bridge to lower Michigan upon commencing employment with the United States Army tank and automotive command (Chrysler Tank) under its executive management program, and also to join the United States Naval Reserve. During my employment at TACOM, I was called to active duty in the Navy serving in 1969-1970, including in Vietnam and Southeast Asia in 1970. Upon returning to TACOM after active duty, I resigned my position at TACOM at the GS 11 level to attend the University of Michigan Law School where I received a JD law degree in 1973. I was then hired by the Attorney General’s Office, and served in the Environmental Protection Division and in the Public Service Division as an Assistant Attorney General and later as an Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the PSC Division. While in the PSC Division for 23 years, I litigated cases and supervised numerous other attorneys, in regulating Michigan’s electric and gas utilities, motor carrier transportation, communications carriers, intrastate railroads, private water companies, oil and gas drilling companies, ferry boats, among other matters. Upon leaving the Attorney General’s Office in 1998, I entered private practice concentrating in public law issues, such as representing nonprofit ratepayer groups in opposing utility rate increases, in advocating in favor of the expansion of customer-owned and community-owned solar facilities and to support fair compensation to solar owners to reduce their energy bills and to be properly compensated from outflow solar generation to the electric grid, and to assist the citizens in four counties in northern Michigan to create a customer-owned cooperative, to construct a high speed broadband network in their rural area, and to obtain state and federal grants and loans to construct and expand the network. During my active private practice, I also obtained an MBA from Michigan State University, graduating in 2005. While in private practice, I have also since 2009 been a member/owner and principal of the Public Law Resource Center PLLC located in East Lansing Michigan. I have been a homeowner in East Lansing and then in Haslett since 1975, now some 47 years.

Don Keskey
Don Keskey

Emily Stivers (Democrat): Born and raised in Franklin and Beverly Hills, MI. Lived in Washington DC for 6 years, Lansing for 5 years, East Lansing for 5 years, and now resides in Haslett (4 years). Proud, out bisexual cisgendered woman (she/her). Mom of 2 boys (ages 6 & 3); oldest has special needs. Husband Jason works for the State; married 9 years. Master's in Public Policy with Concentrations in Public Management and Budgeting, UofM's Ford School. Bachelor's in International Relations with Concentrations in Gender Studies and Economic Development, MSU's James Madison College. Volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and actively fundraises for Haven House. Coached and judged Debate for Okemos and Groves High Schools. Career counselor for students in School of Business, School of Social Work, and School of Public Policy while at UofM. Actively recruits, supports and mentors first-time candidates for local offices.  Ingham County Commissioner, 2018-present; serves on County Services & Finance Committees; previous Chair and current Vice Chair of County Services, and previously Vice Chair of Human Services. CMHA-CEI Board Secretary and Finance Committee Chair. Ingham County Parks & Recreation Commissioner. Ingham County Board Democratic Caucus Treasurer. Worked for Michigan House Democratic Caucus Communications. Served on the Meridian Township Zoning Board & Planning Commission.

Emily Stivers
Emily Stivers

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): Born in metro-Detroit, lived in Germany as a young child before moving to Southfield, Michigan. Attended Southfield Public Schools and the University of Michigan (BA., Psychology and Sociology). Full scholarship to Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University (now known as MSU College of Law), graduated from the King’s Scholars Program. Volunteered for years at the Ingham County Animal Shelter and successfully worked to end the sale of Ingham County animals to class-B research dealers. As Ingham County Commissioner, I spearheaded the Ingham Parks and Trails Millage, Ingham Animal Shelter Millage, increased funding for pretrial service staff and programs for juvenile defenders, and worked to bring the nation’s first urban snow park to Hawk Island. I currently live in East Lansing with my husband and daughter. Ingham County Commissioner 2010 - 2016; Small Business Owner, Practical Political Consulting 2009 - present; Attorney 2004 - present; Legal Advocate, End Violent Encounters 2004 - 2008. Served on the East Lansing Community Development Block Grant Subcommittee of the EL Human Relations Commissions, worked with Capital Area Michigan Works Board, served on the Ingham Drain Board of Determination reviewing the environmental impact of proposed drain projects, served on the Tri-County Aging Consortium, and supported the Community Mental Health Board. Have volunteered and supported environmental organizations including Energy Action Coalition, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council as well as groups like Democracy for America, anti-Right to Work efforts, healthcare initiatives, countless Democratic campaigns, and founded the Ingham County Young Democrats. Awarded Volunteer of the Year by the Ingham County Democrats and Distinguished Volunteer by the Michigan Democratic Party. Oversaw the annual voter registration drive of tens of thousands of MSU students each Fall with the East Lansing Progressives. Owner of Practical Political Consulting, a non-partisan political consulting firm founded nearly 45 years ago. Since taking ownership, we’ve worked with Voters Not Politicians to create the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, successfully disqualified the 2020 Right to Life ballot initiative, worked with labor to promote prevailing wages, and worked with many school districts on their bonds and millages for improvements.

Chris Stewart (Republican): Grew up in Bath, Michigan. Spent summers in Grand Ledge with my grandparents until summer athletics hit. Spent my teens working on research projects at Michigan State University and cleaning the sewers in Meridian Township. Spent all of childhood in 4H, raising rabbits and hogs, buying and selling grain, and baking cookies, all while being in Boy Scouts becoming an Eagle Scout and participating in the International Jamboree here in Michigan; simultaneously playing every sport I could to gain an athletic/academic scholarship playing football in college. Volunteer at Fenner Nature Center Board, Boy Scouts of America, National Wild Turkey Federation State Board, Hunting Mentor for Pheasants Forever with learn to hunt events. Facilitated and taught leadership with the NCAA across the country for administrators, student-athletes and coaches from all divisions. Taught leadership for Pheasants Forever youth leadership program. Been on countless  community service projects for the Special Olympics. Was a 2016 Bath Township Trustee Candidate; Bath DDA; Clinton Area Transit System Board; 2018 71st District State Representative Candidate; Eaton County GOP Chair; Eaton County Redistricting Commission.

On systemic racism

Don Keskey (Democrat): State government could encourage and provide the financial resources to ensure that educational and employment programs address the importance of non-discrimination and provide training programs for law enforcement, government employees and others contracting or dealing with state government to advance a culture of non-discrimination in Michigan.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): One aspect of structural racism in law enforcement, government, health care and other industries’ recruitment efforts and barriers to entry. For example, to enter Michigan’s Police Academy, you have to already know how to swim — a rule that disproportionately favors those who have access to pools and waterways, which tend not to be urban minorities. As a State Representative, I will work with the Democratic Caucus and community leaders in the 75th district to examine all the barriers to recruiting and promoting minorities, and Black people, in particular. Together, we will come up with smart legislation to remove barriers and improve recruitment so that law enforcement, government and health care workers truly represent the communities they serve. As an Ingham County Commissioner, I’m also in discussions right now with leaders at the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties, as well as local school district board members, on how to increase minority recruitment in health care and education.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): There are many actions state government must take immediately to address systemic racism in law enforcement, government, and economics. Racial equity in our criminal justice system is something I’ve focused much of my career on. Regarding health care, legislators must admit this problem exists and work to end it. We must incentivize minorities to pursue careers in medicine to increase patient trust, open important dialogues, and encourage individuals to seek care. We must fund expansions of, and sustained funding for, clinics, urgent cares, medical offices, community health centers, and hospitals in minority communities as we strive toward equity in care.

Penelope Tsernoglou
Penelope Tsernoglou

Chris Stewart (Republican): Acknowledging it exists is number one. Eliminate racial discrimination in the workforce. Authentically support your colleagues regardless of their race. Then listening and creating policy around solutions created within those conversations. It will be a team effort from all spaces to move forward to ensure everyone is provided the best opportunity based on character and talent not gender, race, religion or anything else from anyone that isn’t exactly like them. A Diverse workforce is important and so is being seen and represented appropriately in the workforce. Our differences make us stronger. I made a post about these feelings after the George Floyd murder.

On the COVID-19 response

Don Keskey (Democrat): I would grade the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a B or B+.  More effort could have been undertaken to see if some hybrid approach to school attendance and access to business services could have been undertaken to better ensure the continuation and framework for such functions. However, this observation benefits from hindsight, and not the decisions that had to be made when the dangerous pandemic situation first arose. Also, our state’s response to the pandemic was similar to that undertaken on both a national and international basis. The State Legislature should determine whether the essential elements of such an emergency situation can be made the subject of a workable plan and procedures which nevertheless should not hamstring a prompt response to protect the public health with respect to health or other emergencies.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): I give the state a solid B for its COVID-19 response. Nobody knew what to expect when we started. I stand firmly with Gov. Whitmer and Ingham County Health Department Officer Linda Vail, who absolutely did the best they could in unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult times. They shut things down when it needed to happen, didn’t bow to the whims of the undereducated, and made the very difficult decision to open things up once the majority of people were vaccinated and the most-deadly strains were no longer circulating. As Ingham County’s Chair of County Services in 2021, I made sure we had our American Rescue Plan funds allocated through our departments and in partnerships with community organizations before the money hit our bank account.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): Governor Whitmer stepped up during an unprecedented pandemic and made tough decisions to keep Michiganders safe in the face of unruly protesters, Republicans that refused to listen to science, and even threats against her own safety. Her actions saved thousands, if not more, lives and I am truly grateful for her leadership. Before the next pandemic or public health crisis, the legislature must work to ensure front line workers have the equipment they need to do their job safely and our health officials have the authority they need to make decisions to keep us all safe and healthy.

Chris Stewart (Republican): I'd give it a C+. I think we started off strong and safe and as time moved on I think we didn’t adjust. I think, In the future, we can be more transparent about what our priorities are in state government (Michigan is currently at the bottom for transparency in the country). I also think the three branches of government are made to keep checks and balances. When one branch consumes more authority than another, it can be problematic. We'd also need to see these three branches willingly work with each other vs constantly pulling against one another. I think you must also allow people to decide for themselves when given all the best information. I’m not sure that is completely true from any perspective. In my experience of dealing with crisis situations it's always best to be more transparent and clear to provide goals and then also adhere to those methods yourself. The state legislature should stay the course, ensure either other branch will do their job and keep them accountable to the laws and procedures written.

Christ Stewart
Christ Stewart

On economic stability and inflation

Don Keskey (Democrat): Michigan should increase funding for all levels of public education, and with respect to skilled trades training, so as to make the state attractive for existing and new residents and existing and new businesses. Also, Michigan could assist citizens and families to deal with inflation by increasing the personal income tax exemption, the child tax credit, the earned income credit, and the home heating tax credits.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): Rising prices are a global problem resulting from major supply chain disruptions and corporate price-gouging. I support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plans to crack down on large corporations, particularly the oil and gas companies that are hurting low- and moderate-income families including mine. At the state level, I side with Michigan’s Democratic leaders calling for smart tax relief and rebates to ease the pressures in the short term. And my “MI Markets Initiative,” a package of bills I’m developing with State Rep. Julie Brixie to invest in local small businesses and supply chains, can be a small piece of easing prices for Michiganders and better preparing us for the next global crisis. As a County Commissioner, I supported implementing Prevailing Wage for all vendors doing business with Ingham County, and I personally introduced and championed a $15/hour minimum wage for all county employees. The state must be a leader on these smart employment policies, too.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): One of my priorities will be to ensure the retirement tax is repealed. Doing so would save 500,000 Michigan seniors $1000 per year in taxes. Our seniors worked hard their entire lives, paid their share of taxes, and earned their retirements — government has no business taxing the pensions they depend on for their retirement. Governor Whitmer has already made eliminating this unfair tax a focus of hers and I look forward to working with her to see its repeal.

Chris Stewart (Republican): I think the state legislature needs to continue to partner with private and public businesses and agencies to ensure we're doing everything we can to provide fair opportunities for people to go to work, like ensuring we have affordable child care services for Moms and Dads while they’re at work. It’s an enormous expense for growing families. And growing families is what we want and need, here, working for the growth of our economies. I also think we need to find ways to connect people to jobs they can find joy in for themselves. When you’re doing work you love, you wont really work a day in your life. The state legislature, beyond creating laws, does have the ability to connect job opportunities to people for the people. I believe we can use the platform more within those avenues than only creating more laws.

On election security

Don Keskey (Democrat): I clearly accept the results of the 2020 election, and believe that Michigan’s election procedures and security are adequate. However, I am open to any refinement in election procedures and security if they are credible, and are not based upon wholly speculative and unsupported assertions.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): Michigan’s 2020 election has been proven free and fair by more than 250 independent audits, and I absolutely accept the results. We must do more to expand access to the ballot statewide, and that’s why I support the Michigan House Democratic Caucus’ Right to Vote bill package, which includes bills to: Allow voters to request email or text updates to track their absentee ballot. Codify the ability to request an absentee ballot on the Secretary of State’s website. Prohibit information on pre-registered voters in the Qualified Voter File from being accessed through the Freedom of Information Act until they turn 18. Require the state to reimburse municipalities for the costs of legislative special elections. Prohibit petition signature gatherers from making intentional misstatements to convince a voter to sign a petition. I’ve also been personally circulating the Promote the Vote petition to get expanded voting rights on the November 8th ballot. This initiative is our best chance to codify our voting rights and ballot access.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): Joe Biden won the election fair and square, as did every other Democrat and Republican that was successful on that same ballot in 2020. Our elections are safe and secure. The only real threat to our democracy is the sustained attack by Republicans to make voting more difficult while sowing division in the integrity and results of our electoral process. As someone that has worked in elections for 20 years, I know their claims are utter nonsense and will work alongside Attorney General Nessel and Secretary of State Benson to combat them.

Chris Stewart (Republican): I do accept the results. I made a post about it in January. It wasn’t popular, given I’m a Republican, but I feel given the investigations and where we are now ... my statements, then, still hold true now. And I think our elections are secure, but that doesn’t mean we cannot continue to ensure people we’re (the state legislature) making them more secure. Its ok to ask for ID when voting, it’s ok to also remind people you need a state ID to obtain an absentee ballot. Clearly many people aren’t feeling secure about their vote.  This can be resolved with educating people on the current system and residents choosing to be involved and trained in the process. I want everyone who can legally vote to vote and for us within the system to be able to remove fraud. We should be obtaining near 100% voting participation but instead the national was 66.9% and Michigan was 71% in 2020. It was higher than it’s been but I feel it's not nearly where it should be. I’m very confident when people are able to hear the truth, they’ll make the best decision in the voting box for themselves and their families. The best way to find out how people feel and what they believe, that we have right now, is to get everyone voting and get everyone the best, honest, and accurate information available so they may make a thoughtful vote in the ballot box.

On reproductive rights

Don Keskey (Democrat): I support women’s reproductive rights, and signed the petition drive on this subject. I support efforts in the courts to maintain the Roe v Wade principles, and to protect private medical decision making and privacy and to avoid instilling fear in the medical community when approaching critical medical decisions. The 1931 law should be placed on hold, and should not take effect, pending the vote of the People on the reproductive rights constitutional amendment, which, if approved, should provide the legal requirements on the subject.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): I am firmly and strongly pro-choice and will do absolutely anything and everything I can to protect reproductive freedom in Michigan. I volunteered for MARAL in college and worked on international family planning access throughout my nonprofit career. I relied on Planned Parenthood for reproductive health care when I was uninsured. To conceive my second child, I endured a difficult and often painful in vitro fertilization process that resulted in two miscarriages and one abortion of a non-viable fetus before successfully conceiving my healthy, wonderful, now-3-year-old. But people shouldn’t have to share their trauma for reproductive health care to be protected in Michigan. Decisions about a person’s body should be between their doctors and themselves, no one else.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): I am 100-percent pro choice. I will never waver in support of women’s choice and access to health care. I support increased access to community health centers, clinics, and contraceptive distribution. We also must strengthen laws to protect survivors of sexual assault and violence through increased awareness programs, education, reporting standards, and removing statute of limitations on these crimes.

Chris Stewart (Republican): I am pro life. To me that encompasses all of life start to finish. This includes our mental health services, access to contraception, foster care services, our adoption services, all the way through elder care and hospice services. Ultimately women, and families, can make the best decisions given their circumstances. I think we can provide a more empathetic space for their decisions. Government can stay out of people’s bodies. I'm a man, so I'd like to hear more from women on this issue. I also look forward to hearing from the Supreme Court.

On LGBTQ rights

Don Keskey (Democrat): I support amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ people. Discrimination against LGBTQ persons is unduly discriminatory and intrusive and violates the privacy rights of citizens.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): As a proud, out bisexual, I absolutely support amending Elliott-Larson to include LGBTQIA people. I believe representation matters, especially when a voter is faced with a field of qualified candidates. But my bisexuality is more than just a label; it’s an important perspective I bring to policymaking. As the first openly bisexual woman on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, I've championed gender-neutral restrooms on County property, and employment protections not just for County workers, but for any vendors doing business with the County. We accomplished both of those measures within my first six months as a commissioner. We need the same protections at the state level.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): I served on the East Lansing Human Relations Commission for several years, administering our first in the nation Human Rights Ordinance, ensuring equitable treatment in housing, opportunity, and civil rights not covered by state or federal law. I support expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Matt Epling Safe School Law to protect LGBTQ+ individuals, outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals regarding adoption, banning harmful conversion therapy treatments for minors, and protecting our LGBTQ+ kids from bullying and discrimination in school.

Chris Stewart (Republican): Everyone has rights regardless of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status" in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations. Let's start treating ourselves with more kindness in lieu of our differences.

Other issues of import

Don Keskey (Democrat): An issue not yet adequately on Michigan’s radar is the unreasonable reform of the no-fault insurance law insofar as it reduced health cost reimbursements for severely injured auto accident victims, essentially on a retroactive basis since such persons paid for the insurance benefits on the premise of such coverage. Michigan should correct this error by revising the Michigan no-fault auto law to restore adequate reimbursement for severely injured auto accident victims, and otherwise should strengthen its regulation of insurance companies to ensure that insurance rates in Michigan are cost justified, and to determine why Michigan’s insurance rates appear to exceed the insurance rates in many other states.

Emily Stivers (Democrat): Septic system pollution. Michigan currently has a point-of-sale septic inspection system. That means if you live on well and septic, you don’t have to have it inspected unless you’re trying to sell your home. That means many property owners go more than 20 years without having an inspection, and since it’s underground, they may not realize their system is failing — leaking pollutants into our groundwater and waterways. Then when they do go to sell — surprise! — it’s a $25,000 or more bill for full system clean up and replacement. A lot of property owners can’t afford that. So they’re stuck. I’ve lived through that twice in my life, so I know from personal experience that those bills hit low- and moderate-income families hard.

Penelope Tsernoglou (Democrat): My mother’s cardiologist recently told her she could either pay for a $1,700 lifesaving prescription or decline rapidly. Of course, we ended up paying out of pocket. I realize we are fortunate in that we are able to find ways to make this work, but the sad reality is, most families would never be able to incur this expense. Our aging parents, that worked hard their entire lives, should never have to face decisions like these regarding medicine, care, or food. I’ll work to ensure folks like my mother can enjoy their elder years without these financial stresses

Chris Stewart (Republican): I feel water, PFAS, and ensuring the Great Lakes aquifer stay with the state of Michigan is something most people aren’t paying attention to. I think mapping our aquifer is a great start to seeing and evaluating what we have and where we're at now to ensure we have keep being 20% of the GLOBES fresh water resource!

This story was assembled from email questionnaires managed by LSJ news assistants Jayne Higo and Veronica Bolanos. Contact them at LSJ-EAs@lsj.com or 517.377.1112.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Election 2022: Candidates for Michigan Representative District 75 in their own words