PETOSKEY — Being an underdog does not seem to bother educators Jim Martin or Suzanne Shumway, the two rookie candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in the 107th House district Tuesday.
Martin, of Sault Ste. Marie, has been a teacher for 25 years and is seeking his first political office. A three-time Upper Peninsula cross country Coach of the Year for the Blue Devils, Martin has used the "Coach Martin" monicker as part of his campaign and considers himself a moderate.
Both candidates know they face an uphill fall challenge against state Rep. Frank Foster, a Petoskey Republican serving out his first term in office. Foster is unopposed for the Republican primary. But, neither candidate has been deterred from making an all-in commitment to campaigning for the chance to be on the ballot in November.
Fundraising has been stronger than in years past for both Democratic candidates, but they still are far behind the incumbent Republican.
The pre-primary campaign reports show Foster has accumulated $116,358 toward his second term, holding about $77,000 in cash currently. Martin raised $17,075 and Shumway $14,011. Both Democrats have spent almost all those resources for the primary.
"We're just not going to have the money that young Mr. Foster's going to have, so the only way to win this is going door-to-door, person-to-person," Martin said. "I don't mind a David versus Goliath match up, because I know how that story ends."
Martin has tried to use yard signs and face time to get the edge in the primary. By his own account, he has been campaigning 36 of the last 39 days.
Shumway has also hit the sidewalks above and below the Mackinac Bridge. Building a social media presence has been another facet she emphasized via Facebook, Twitter and written essays on her webpage.
"I think it is a candidate's duty to reach the voter in any way possible," Shumway said. "Certainly the traditional ways of reaching the voters are important, and I have knocked on many, many doors and been in parades, but at the same time I think social media is very, very important. It's an easy way to get a lot of information out about yourself to the voters."
Neither candidate said they could confidently predict a win Tuesday, noting the expanded portion of the 107th House District in Cheboygan County could be the decider in the primary.
Despite their many personal-life similarities, the candidates part ways on their platforms.
On education, Martin wants the Michigan School Aid Fund protected -- constitutionally if necessary -- to return K-12 schools back to their "fully funded" state. He also calls for some of the added funding to be used to create more trade classes and apprenticeships for both teens and adults to help meet the employment needs of local industry.
"We need to teach the unemployed and under employed," Martin said.
The Chippewa County Democrat also would like tax relief for the middle class in the form of a graduated income tax.
"I believe in my heart of hearts, we live in a consumer driven economy and consumer means you and me," he said. "We have one of the largest senior populations anywhere in the state. But, seniors and retirees got the biggest tax hikes of anyone else. Tens of millions of dollars were taken out of economy by (the senior pension tax)."
"(Republicans) basically gave a tax holiday to big business, Wall Street banks, insurance companies, big oil, the usual suspects, the same people who always seem to get the breaks when we are talking state or federal government," he added.
Seniors, Martin said, were willing to give up the money for the betterment of the state, but he said "the money didn't go for roads or police or fire protection or libraries," it went to tax breaks for big businesses.