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Democrat to challenge Jim Lilly for 89th House District seat

By Jake Allen/The Holland Sentinel • Jan 18, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Jerry Sias, a Democratic candidate running for the Michigan House 89th District seat, said he wants to represent the people — specifically the working and middle class.

Sias was born and raised in Grand Haven. He is challenging incumbent state Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, for the seat.

Lilly was first elected in 2016 to represent the district that includes the townships of Grand Haven, Olive, Park, Port Sheldon, Robinson, Blendon, Crockery and Spring Lake, and the cities of Ferrysburg and Grand Haven.

Sias served in the U.S. Army for eight years and is a decorated veteran of Desert Storm. After his time in the military, he worked on a production line for Johnson Controls. He then learned the electrical trade, attended Grand Rapids Community College and worked as a union foreman. Afterward, he started his own electrical company called Affordable Electric.

However, due to a near-fatal car accident, Sias said he can no longer work in the electrical field.

Sias said he has worn the hat of soldier, student, union foreman, small-business owner and patient. He said he knows what keeps the working class up at night.

“I am just like every guy,” he said. “I feel I can relate with the masses. I can relate with the working poor because I’ve been there and I can relate with the middle class.”

After 10 years of rehabilitating from the car crash injuries, Sias said he is ready to conquer the world.

One of the biggest issues facing the 89th District is ensuring the protection of the Great Lakes as federal funding is cut, Sias said.

“What drives our community and our county is tourism and people coming here to enjoy our shores,” he said. “We really need to keep our lakes and rivers clean.”

Sias said because of his prior experiences, he is very familiar with Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system. He said something needs to be done to make auto insurance more affordable in Michigan, but wanted to dig deeper into the issue.

Sias would like to see a comprehensive breakdown of what is causing auto insurance to cost so much in Michigan, but praised the system’s catastrophic fund.

“I would be homeless right now if it wasn’t for that fund,” he said. “I’d be buried in hospital bills and rehabilitation bills without it. It does serve a purpose and it does help the people of Michigan.”

Sias said he would like to see health care reform in Michigan and supports the idea of single-payer health insurance in the state.

Net neutrality is another issue Sias would like to address. He said the state should create its own utility for internet and eliminate corporate control.

Two years of free college or technical training is another initiative Sias said he would push for if elected to the state House. This would put young people in a position where they are not held back by massive amounts of debt, he said.

Sias admitted that it will be a challenge running as a Democratic candidate in the right-leaning region of West Michigan.

Lilly defeated Democrat Tim Meyer in 2016 with 61.14 percent of the vote. 

Before Lilly, the seat was held by Republican Amanda Price from 2010-16. Price received 67.9 percent of votes in the 2014 election.

“It will be tough, but that’s another perspective I bring to the table,” Sias said. “I can relate with a lot of disgruntled Democrats that are voting Republican, especially in this district. There’s a lot of middle class and working poor voting against their best interest, I feel.”

Sias said the dynamics of the district are changing and voters are getting younger. He said Democrats have a better shot now more than ever to win the seat.

“Jim Lilly doesn’t represent the people of Michigan,” Sias said. “I think Jim Lilly represents the corporations of Michigan. We are just going to keep on that and keep on that message, and let the people know we are here for them.”

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