Kurt Hausauer, Jerry Tkach face off in Aug. 4 primary
LAPEER COUNTY — It’s been a long time since a Democrat has occupied the 82nd District House seat.
It was nearly a quarter-century ago that Democrat Karen Willard of St. Clair County was elected to three consecutive two-year terms. At that time, the 82nd District encompassed portions of both Lapeer and St. Clair counties, which now includes Lapeer County only.
Regardless of their chances in a majority Republican county, two Democrats are running in the August 4 primary election for a chance to challenge incumbent Republican Gary Howell in the November general election.
The Democratic primary challengers are Kurt Hausauer, a retired truck driver/union activist and Jerry Tkach, a longtime teacher and educator.
A retired truck driver for Detroit-based Yellow Freight, Hausauer, 65, was a member of Teamster’s Union and he remains a staunch advocate for unions.
He adamantly describes himself as a “Constitutional Democrat” who leans politically toward labor.
“It’s the laborers who built this country and whose backs we still rely on,” Hausauer said. “There has been massive union busting and a chipping away at unions for years now, and it’s not good for the country.
“Unions provide people better wages, good health care, safe work conditions, dignity and a voice in the work place,” he continued. “It’s never been the union’s intent to bankrupt companies. That would be stupid. All we want is a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”
Hausauer pointed out that unions provide employees a way to express concerns and voice grievances,
“All of that has been lost with the Republican Right-to-Work laws,” he said. “The Republicans just go along to get along, as long as it pads their pockets.”
Hausauer doesn’t mince his words about his frustration with Democrats, either, noting that he’s particularly frustrated with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and people’s rights to live their lives freely.
“I believe her stay-at-home orders and mandatory face masks are unconstitutional. They’re a violation of our personal rights as Americans.”
If he wins the Democratic primary and beats Howell in November, Hausauer provided a list of his priorities as 82nd District representative.
They include: (1) eliminating school taxes and dedicating all Michigan Lottery proceeds to schools as originally intended; (2) repealing taxes on pensions and state property foreclosure laws; (3) repealing Michigan’s Right-to-Work laws; (4) placing a ban on fracking and holding polluters responsible.
“I’m running because I see a crisis in leadership,” he said. “I feel my attitudes, my beliefs and priorities are more aligned with the people.
“Can I beat Gary Howell? I don’t know,” Hausauer said. “But I can sure as heck give it a good try.”
As a young man, Jerry Tkach recalls working as a bartender’s assistant at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and one memorable summer as a garbage man for the City of Warren.
Later, he worked as a machine operator at Ford Gear and Axle in Sterling Heights, before trying his hand at insurance sales and managing a Radio Shack store.
It took awhile, but Tkach eventually realized that it was teaching that truly fed his heart and soul.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from U-M Flint and later acquired a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.
“I began my teaching career 30 years ago as a long-term sub at Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx, New York,” Tkach recalled. “After returning to Michigan, I became tenured with Lapeer Community Schools in the early 1990s.”
An ELA instructor at Lapeer West High School, Tkach also taught subjects at both of the city’s junior high schools and the alternative high school.
“My teaching career has largely dealt with addressing the needs of at-risk high school students,” he said. “For the past 16 years, I have been an instructor with the Mt. Morris Ancillary School Program.”
For the past six years, Tkach has been a GED teacher at the Genesee County Jail in Flint.
A staunch union advocate, at Mount Morris Alternative High School, Tkach organized teachers and was president and lead negotiator for his fellow educators, who voted to join the Michigan Education Association several years ago.
Tkach and his late-wife, Beth, were married for more than 30 years; raising three daughters, all of whom graduated from Lapeer West High School.
“I have been blessed with children and four wonderful grandchildren, who have been my joy and solace since my wife lost her 15-year battle with breast cancer a little over two years ago,” he said.
If he wins the August 4 primary, Tkach pledges to run on traditional Democratic principles and values, with a focus on education.
“I would strongly support fully funding public education, respecting educators, valuing students and stopping special interest groups from undermining the political process to their advantage.”
His priorities would also include: (1) ending lame duck legislation; (2) strengthening financial transparency of government officials; (3) modifying term limits for legislators; and (4) ending Right-to-Work laws.
“Government should be responsive to the needs of the people it serves,” Tkach said. “With proper transparency and ethical guidance, government officials can work for the common good of all citizens.”
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.