ELECTION: Michigan Senate districts 33, 34 race up for grabs

Voters in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties will have the opportunity to make their voices heard in several elections in 2022.

Voters in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties will have the opportunity to make their voices heard in several elections in 2022.

Pioneer image/Ronald DeBrock

(EDITOR'S NOTE: With the redrawing of district lines in 2020, voters in the three-county area — Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties — will be deciding on some new candidates as they go to the polls in the August primary election. The primary election provides voters the chance to select a candidate to be a political party’s nominee for a given office in the general election. The Star reached out to the candidates on the ballot, however, not all responded prior to publication.)


LAKE COUNTY — The newly drawn Senate District 33 covers Irons, Branch, Wolf Lake, Baldwin and part of Luther in Lake County, as well as Newaygo and Montcalm counties, and part of Kent and Ionia counties.

Newcomer Mark Bignell (D) is running unopposed, while incumbent Rick Outman (R) and Andrew Jackson Willis (R), will vie for the Republican nomination.

Bignell was born in Montcalm County and raised in the Village of Palo. He endured the loss of his father and the family home in Palo, while young. He worked to support his family in Stanton, and later went on to study accounting and business at Montcalm Community College, then Seidman School of Business at GVSU, where he was forced to withdraw due to rising tuition costs. Bignell completed the CDL program at West Michigan CDL and worked in logistics, later completing his bachelor’s degree in Integrated Studies at GSVU

Current Sen. Rick Outman was elected as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives in 2010 and represented the 70th District until 2016, when term limits prevented him from seeking another term. In that time, Outman chaired the Michigan Capitol Committee and was a member of House Committees on Agriculture, Commerce, Elections and Ethics, Energy and Technology and Families, Children and Seniors.

In 2018, he was elected to represent the 33rd state Senate District, which includes the counties of Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Mecosta and Montcalm. Outman currently serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality.

The Star reached out to the candidates and asked the following:

STAR: Why did you decide to run for the Michigan Senate District 33 seat?

BIGNELL: I'm running for Michigan State Senate because I want to work to rebuild Michigan from the people up, in order to help bring about a new and better tomorrow.

OUTMAN:  When I first got into politics, people asked me why I ran and back then I said I ran because I was asked to.  Growing up we were a very apolitical family. Now I can honestly say it is because there were a lot of great things we did, we accomplished a lot but there is still so much more to do. I have the experience now, and I feel like I can actually contribute more than I ever have before. There are a lot of things left to do and I want to be a part of that. 

STAR: What do you feel are the most important issues facing the district?

BIGNELL: The most pressing issue facing the 33rd District actually underpins all the other issues and that is the instigated social uprisings that originate from power brokers using malignant misinformation and scapegoating to deflect and divert attention from mismanagement of domestic policy. The cost of living has far outpaced our capacity to earn.

As the economy steadily marches towards the continued obsession with ever increasing growth in profitability through shifts in practiced procedure, market consolidation and automation, restricting and impeding collective bargaining rights and a greater emphasis on importation, the probability of instability in our economy grows exponentially.

The results of each of these policies are felt and seen by everyday Michiganders as we shop at the supermarket with everyday items missing from the shelves and higher prices. Due to these higher prices, households are deprived of their discretionary income, which causes the market to shrink, as consumers are forced to choose between needs.

OUTMAN: I would say inflation is the number one issue right now and the high energy costs. Manpower (employment) is right up there, trying to find qualified help and being able to afford to live here. They are all kind of tied together and rank the same in importance. 

STAR: How will you tackle the issues if elected?

BIGNELL: I will prioritize policies that will ultimately return stability to our domestic markets. As a state, we must focus on bolstering our domestic supply, while investing in the supply chain distribution network and public works. We must enact labor policy that makes work pay a living in Michigan again, while enacting policies that ultimately stabilize all the various markets across Michigan. By doing so, we drive down the probability of local shortages while at the same time leveling out market pricing.

In providing such an environment, the sustainability of our state economy will be shored up, the security of domestic policy will be improved and the cost of living will be alleviated. Sound domestic policy that creates the environment for people to meet their needs is the key to resolving the multitudes of problems impacting everyday Michiganders and will improve public morale, public safety, the local economy, schools, the environment and our futures. 

OUTMAN: We have tackled them a little bit. We (the legislators) have offered tax incentive packages to the governor, which she vetoed, although she has been receptive to some of the economic development packages we have put forward. We established The ReConnect program for those who have been out of school but never went to college or trade school and now want to access those we have programs. The Going Pro program is available for businesses to utilize with existing employees to upscale them.

One of the big factors in being able to make that decision about whether it is worth going to work is the high cost of child care, and we have looked at incentives to alleviate some of those costs and eliminate some of the barriers to opening a daycare. 

STAR: Why should the people vote for you?

BIGNELL: I come prepared with the experience and tenacity of a survivor, tempered from a personal history of enduring the loss of my father at an early age and homelessness resulting from the loss of our family home in the winter of 2001. With that background and determination, I developed a hunger for sharpening my knowledge and skills. Due to this, I accumulated an interdisciplinary skill set and a capacity to see problems from a multifaceted standpoint, focusing both on the larger picture and at each individual component. I know the grit and determination of my fellow Michiganders because I lived it.

What we need in our time are leaders capable of seeing the problems plaguing Michigan's people from multiple perspectives, with the capacity to effectively communicate the mechanics of those problems with the people they represent and their own peers in Lansing, while proposing potential solutions. As your next State Senator for the 33rd District, with your support, I will devote my time in office to forging a path through these unstable times with solid domestic policy focused on the needs of everyday Michiganders. 

OUTMAN: I have been a successful legislator and have gotten some pieces of legislation passed that I think have been helpful for our area. I have voted for a lot of very good programs. I don’t take my job lightly. Every decision we make impacts you, your future kids, your future grandkids, your parents, everybody. Every decision we make is long reaching and long lasting. I think my record stands for itself, and I would be honored to serve you again. This is one of the most important things I have ever done in my life, and I try to bring all of our hopes and wishes from this area through legislation.


Senate District 34 covers Idlewild, Chase and part of Luther in Lake County, as well as Mecosta and Osceola counties. Christine Gerace (D) is running unopposed, while former state representative for House district 100 Roger Hauck is running against newcomer Lisa Sowers for the Republican nomination.

Star did not receive any responses from these candidates by press time.

For more information on voting locations or to view ballots, contact your local clerk’s office or  visit michigan.gov/elections.