This November, President Trump’s head-to-head faceoff with Vice President Biden isn’t the only important election Holland faces. Between the growing importance of the House of Representatives’ influence on the budget amidst the pandemic and the increased power of the vote when it comes to local elections, the ballot for the representative of Michigan’s second district is arguably just as significant as the presidential ballot. This term, Republican and incumbent Congressman Bill Huizenga is up for reelection against Democrat Bryan Berghoef, whose Christian background and Holland residency has helped him gain popularity. Berghoef has particularly attracted fascination because of his decision, as a pastor and long-time conservative, to recently switch to the Democratic party in the name of “conversation, the Gospels, grace, compassion, and caring for one’s neighbors,” according to his website. With Berghoef’s potential appeal to Holland’s moderates, Huizenga’s incumbency and Holland’s conservative bent, this race promises to be a close call.
One of the more pressing issues that seems to transcend party lines with young populations, especially in nature-packed states such as Michigan, is the environment. Seemingly aware of the importance of environmental preservation to their constituents, especially of the Great Lakes, both Huizenga and Berghoef have published statements on their websites concerning energy and the preservation of the Great Lakes as well as the Earth in general. All of these proposals are important for those who value conservation to educate themselves on in order to hold their representatives accountable and to cast an informed vote.
Both candidates prioritize the Great Lakes in their campaign. Huizenga, as the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, emphasizes the importance of preserving the Great Lakes on his website because of its significant economic importance and its provision of “90% of the nation’s fresh surface water” and “drinking water for 48 million people.” To accomplish this preservation, Huizenga has worked to fund “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI),” which is a “a bipartisan program that works to protect and strengthen the ecology and the economy of the Great Lakes” through hundreds of locally-sourced projects including research, reforestation, beach cleaning, dam building or removal as needed and the addressing of invasive species (the full map of projects by GLRI can be found here). Huizenga also claims to be working on a specific solution to the invasion of Asian Carp, which he expresses to be “one of the greatest environmental threats to the region.” Berghoef similarly conveys interest in renewing the Great Lakes and funding the GLRI, both for its success in cleaning up the lakes and because of its economic importance, arguing that “every dollar of federal spending on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) projects between 2010 and 2016 will produce $3.35 in additional economic activity in the Great Lakes region through 2036.” While he praises the work the GLRI has accomplished and the funding it has received, he also communicates that “much more needs to be done, and we need sustained funding over the long haul.”
While Huizenga and Berghoef almost seem to mirror each other on the issue of the Great Lakes, their views begin to split when discussing energy, a topic emphasized by both candidates in their campaigns. Huizenga, in an attempt to preserve capitalist competition and a high-functioning, job-filled economy within the issue of climate change, stands against government intervention in prioritizing a certain form of energy, arguing that “we cannot allow the federal government to pick winners and losers when it comes to various forms of energy, and Congress can prevent this by enacting an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy. A comprehensive energy package that increases energy independence and job creation encourages the development of alternative and renewable energy sources and promotes greater efficiencies and conservation for a cleaner environment. This approach would ensure that we are providing energy solutions without placing America at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world.” Berghoef, on the other hand, promises to “embrace technology and innovation and fund research into utility-scale renewable energy and storage,” citing multiple sources supporting the argument that renewable energy is, in fact, much better for the economy, the job market and the climate. In addition to supporting clean energy research on his website, he argues that “truly leveling the playing field” includes ending subsidies for coal and fossil fuels, which will, in turn, allow the ultimately cheaper wind and solar electricity to rise to the top of energy sources, allowing the U.S. to further participate in the fast-growing clean energy economy.
In addition to the renewal of the Great Lakes and the support of clean energy, Berghoef backs “policies that hold corporations responsible for climate impacts,” while still emphasizing the importance of businesses in powering the movement to “mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilient, lower-carbon infrastructure.” Berghoef also criticizes Huizenga on Twitter for his support of President Trump, who, when asked about climate change, “says that ‘science is wrong’ and ‘it will just cool down,’” according to a recent tweet by Berghoef. It’s important to add that Berghoef has not publicly commented on the Green New Deal, and Huizenga has spoken against it, arguing that the proposal “is likely technologically impossible.” Finally, since Huizenga’s swearing-in in 2010, he has apparently voted in support of 3% of national pro-environment proposals, and 0% in 2019, according to the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group that tracks representatives’ environmental voting records. Berghoef, as a challenger, has no such scorecard.
While keeping tabs on lesser-known representatives’ particular plans and voting records can be overwhelming, awareness and consideration of these specifics not only fuels democracy through accountability, but it also expands public knowledge of solutions, creating a greater ability to cooperate with one another on potentially life-altering issues such as global warming. Therefore, each and every citizen who hopes for a cleaner Earth, Michigan and Holland, should familiarize themselves with their representatives’ proposals, look at the research currently being done and, most importantly, vote.