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Meet the Democrats running in Michigan's newly-drawn 75th Congressional District

Penelope Tsernoglou, Emily Stivers and Don Keskey are Democrats running for the 75th District seat in Michigan House of Representatives
Posted at 10:10 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 10:10:18-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 2. On the ballot will be Penelope Tsernoglou, Emily Stivers and Don Keskey, who are all running to represent the newly-drawn 75th District in the Michigan House of Representatives.

The three will go head-to-head for the Democratic nomination for District 75, which now spans all the way through parts of Clinton County, over to part of Shiawassee County and down to a northern section of Ingham County.

Tsernoglou said she decided to run about five months ago.

"This is a really important time right now with redistricting," Tsernoglou said. "The Democrats have a really good chance at taking a majority in the House, and we have so many important issues that we need to focus on—like reproductive freedom, gun safety laws, education, healthcare, equity—so many things that are just so important."

Stivers said state Rep. Julie Brixie asked her to run.

"I decided to run for state representative after we learned...current state Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. was not going to be seeking this new, open seat in the 75th District," Stivers said. "I was working for the Democratic Caucus in the Michigan House of Representatives at the time."

Keskey said his process of deciding whether or not to run was a long one.

"I decided to run a few weeks before the deadline," Keskey said. "Of course, I've been interested in stat government my whole career. I worked closely with Attorney General Frank Kelley and ran one of his large divisions that regulated all transportation and utilities, and we also did a lot of work in environmental protection."

Tsernoglou is an attorney, a small business owner, a longtime Democratic party activist and a former Ingham County commissioner.

"Right now, one of the most pressing issues for me—and for our nation, I believe—is gun safety, and passing some common sense gun safety legislation," Tsernoglou said. "As a mom, I don't want to be worried when I sent my daughter to school every morning, and I don't want other moms and dad to have to worry about that, either."

Stivers is currently an Ingham County commissioner and has an extensive background in advocacy and nonprofit work from education to clean water and global hunger to working with refugees after the war in Iraq.

"As an Ingham County commissioner, I've gotten to work specifically on mental healthcare," Stivers said. "I'm the liaison between the Board of Commissioners and the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties, and in that experience—and especially as chair of the CMH finance committee, I've been struck by just how short we are on resources."

Keskey is an attorney who worked with Attorney General Frank Kelley for 25 years.

"I assisted—or worked with—Frank Kelley closely on strategy and policy, and my area of responsibility in meeting constituents, writing Attorney General's opinions and litigating hundreds of cases, and supervising attorneys and many others at all levels of the state and federal agencies and courts, including several times in the Michigan Supreme Court and also the United States Supreme Court," Keskey said.

Because they are all Democrats, their opinions are similar when it comes to many hot-button issues such as reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, gun safety, health care, education and so on. There are, however, things that set them apart from each other.

Tsernoglou said for her, it's the 20 years she's been directly involved with her community.

"As a county commissioner, I did the trails and parks millage...we were able to bring millions of dollars of investment into our communities so that we could connect our trails and improve our parks here all over Ingham County," Tsernoglou said. " I also did the animal shelter millage...and I've just been involved in so many things...I really feel very connected to my community."

Stivers said there are a few things that set her apart, the first being that she is the only candidate who currently serves in elected office.

"The second is that I'm the only LGBTQ candidate in the race," Stivers said. "I'm a proud bi-sexual woman and that perspective will inform the policy work that I do...and finally, I'm the only candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood."

For Keskey, it's his nearly 50 years of experience as an attorney—half of which he spent working with Attorney General Frank Kelley.

"In my public practice since, I have continued with many, many cases on many different core levels and have continued to represent these same kind of issues," Keskey said. "If you want to be a leader, if you want to be proactive, if you want to prevent strategies to undermine the public interest, you have to have the backbone and the foundation, and that's what I have over any other candidates."

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, will move on to the general election in November and go up against Republican candidate Chris Stewart.

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