East of Grand Rapids, local race gets early momentum

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Since U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Grand Rapids, broke from the Republican party on the Fourth of July, national pundits and even President Donald Trump have given their predictions for the future of Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District.

In a northeastern pocket of that district, an engineer and a recent college grad are the first to launch bids for Michigan’s 73rd State House District.

In its current district lines, the 73rd has always been represented by one of three Republicans, two of whom are cousins.

SAXTON RETURNS

This is a second attempt for this seat by Bill Saxton, a Democrat and computer systems engineer who lives in East Grand Rapids with his wife and three young children. In 2018, he lost to incumbent Republican Lynn Afendoulis, who is currently running for Congress.

In 2018, Saxton became the first Democratic candidate in this district to get more than 32% of the vote, losing to Afendoulis by 10,353 votes.

Saxton launched his 2020 campaign this week with a fundraiser in which he raised more money than he did in his entire 2018 bid. In a release, his campaign called it a “record-breaking night proves that Kent County is ready to challenge the status quo of Republican-leaning districts.”

So far, Saxton has picked up endorsements from State Reps. Rachel Hood and David LaGrand, State Board of Education member Lupe Ramos-Montigny, and six members of the Kent County Board of Commissioners.

Saxton lists education funding, protecting drinking water from PFAS, and improving infrastructure as his top priorities.

YOUNG CONSERVATIVE’S FIRST BID FOR OFFICE

Hoping to keep the district red is recent college grad, Brandon Sinclair. On Tuesday, Sinclair brought his wife and parents to file his paperwork to enter the race.

Sinclair has a lengthier resume than most 20-somethings. This recent graduate of Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University studied business administration. He also served as an executive at the Michigan Department of the Attorney General, working on human trafficking issues. Sinclair also worked for the Kent GOP, volunteered for the GRCC Foundation Board, and earned his Eagle Scout certification.

State district lines were last drawn in 2011 by a committee of legislators with a Republican majority.

Sinclair currently works as an enrollment specialist at Grand Rapids Community College.

On his campaign website, Sinclair is described as “a Christian and these beliefs shape his worldview… and is 100% pro-life.”

“I’m running to improve our State for generations to come, Sinclair said in a release. “We need to move Michigan forward and I will be fighting for us and for our future.”

VOTERS IN THE 73RD 

In a diagonally-shaped district spanning across East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Charter Township, Sand Lake, and Cannon, Courtland, Oakfield, Nelson and Spencer Townships, Saxton and Sinclair are competing to win over a predominantly white electorate.

Economically, voters in the district range from earning a median income of about $125,000 in East Grand Rapids, to Sand Lake, where the median income is about $36,000.

The primary election for local and state races is in August 2020.

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