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56th District race heats up

By Maya Gaynier
On November 1, 2018

Jason Sheppard (left), R-Temperance, and Ernie Whiteside talk during a candidate forum in the Meyer Theater last month.

Citizens of the 56th District in Monroe County will be voting for a State Representative Nov. 6. 
Incumbent Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance and his opponent Ernie Whiteside have been competing for votes.
Jason Sheppard and his wife of 16 years Melissa, live in Temperance with their St. Bernard, Daisy May.
Ernie Whiteside, and his wife Delia live in Monroe with three of their six children.
Sheppard was a two-term County Commissioner for the 8th District then two-term 56th District State Representative.
Whiteside began his political endeavors as a Libertarian but felt real change could not occur unless they were getting people elected.
Whiteside started aligning himself with the Democratic party as he felt they were passionate and desired good outcomes.
Since then, Whiteside has been very active in the party. He has been the chair of the local progressive club, treasurer for the Monroe County Democratic Party, and has held an alternate seat on the Monroe County Board of Canvassers for five years. 
Sheppard feels being the State Representative for a third and final term will allow him to accomplish many of his goals for the district.
“I still have unfinished business that needs to be done,” Sheppard said. “I feel that we’re getting to that point where some of the things I’ve wanted to accomplish will come to fruition.”
Whiteside said he is running for state Representative in order for Democrats to have a voice in the capital. 
Sheppard and Whiteside are both working towards finding more money to fund Monroe County’s roads.
Sheppard is all for a possible increase in the sales tax, if it were designated strictly for roads.
Whiteside feels the roads cannot be improved until the tax structure is improved.
“We are failing to tax appropriately,” Whiteside said.
Additionally, Whiteside wishes for Michigan to stop earmarking funds for the road.
“The roads just have to be maintained and I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be shackled by earmarks and those kinds of fake limitations,” Whiteside said.
Both Whiteside and Sheppard have strong opinions about legalizing marijuana.
“I’m in favor of it,” Whiteside said. “It’s not that I’m in favor of people using marijuana recreationally, I’m opposed to people going to jail for it, their careers ruined for it, losing their driver’s licenses for it.”
Sheppard, however, feels this ballot proposal has too many flaws and needs to be restructured. 
“This particular ballot proposal is wrought with some issues that we have to deal with because there’s no structure,” Sheppard.
Both men also have diverging views when it comes to funding college.
Whiteside supports free tuition for students and working on how this could be made possible.
“Free to the student and free to the parents. I’m 100% with that,” Whiteside said. “But it still has to be paid for and we have to have a payment model.” 
Sheppard disagrees, saying students need to be invested in their education. However, he agrees the college system should be restructured.
“I would like to see some structure for students who cannot afford it to be able to get the college that they need,” Sheppard said. “But also be in a job market where they can pay that back.”
Whiteside also wants the students at MCCC to be mindful of intergenerational oppression. He feels the older generation is receiving benefits the younger generation will never have the opportunity to receive.
“Intergenerational oppression is the social injustice I would be most worried about if I was a college student,” Whiteside stressed.
Sheppard would like students to know he loves working with MCCC.
“I was very happy to get in our budget last term,” Sheppard said. “The funding needed to do the renovations that you see going on around here with the state dollars that were needed.”

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