Secretary of State Candidates Square Off in Debate

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Friday's Secretary of State debate at WKAR's studios in East Lansing started out friendly enough, with Democratic candidate Jocelyn Benson and Republican candidate Ruth Johnson sticking to the issues.

Both agreed that streamlining costs while improving service is a top priority.

"If you can streamline government services and cut wasteful spending we'll actually be able to create one-stop services for our citizens," said Benson, who also wants to collaborate with other state agencies to bring down costs.

"We're going to cut costs and make services more convenient just like I did in Oakland County," said Johnson, who was elected Oakland County's clerk in 2004. "We cut staff 20 percent, saving one million dollars, while receiving 14 national awards."

Benson and Johnson have a different set of experiences. Johnson has been in politics for a good portion of her career, serving in the Michigan House of Representatives and as Oakland County Commissioner. Benson, however, comes from academia. She currently teaches Election law at Wayne State University, has written a book on the important role of State Secretary of States and testified in front of Congress on voter issues.

Although the two candidates agree on trimming costs, they disagree on issues like online voter registration.

"I don't believe we have the system in place to protect us from fraud yet," said Johnson.

"I support it as long as it has protections in place like they have in Arizona and Washington to prevent fraud," said Benson.

They also disagree on instituting multiple days of voting. Johnson says that not all counties could afford to add extra voting days, creating an unfair situation where richer counties could have a longer time to vote. Benson says that she is in favor of the effort because it would help make it easier to vote.

Both campaigns also question where their opponent got their money.

"90% of her funding is coming from corporate and special interests," said Benson.

"Our elections can't be bought. This is a Michigan election for Michigan people," said Johnson. "So why is over $135,000 of her funding coming from outside the state?"

Both Benson and Johnson say the choice at the polls is clear cut.

"The secretary of state's office needs to cut costs and provide more convenience," said Johnson. "I've done that in the second largest county in the state and I'll do that as your next Secretary of State."

"If voters want someone who is going to fight for them and be on their side, then they need to elect me, Jocelyn Benson, for their next Secretary of State," said Benson.

The full debate is scheduled to air at 8:30 PM on WKAR. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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