News & Press releases
SEPTEMBER 9, 2020
Letter to the Editor
In Defense of USPS
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is so important to a functioning society that it was ensconced in the Constitution in 1789 (article 1, section 8). Like police and fire departments, it is a public good, which greatly enhances the well-being of society, especially those in rural areas. Much of our commerce takes place through the USPS including our Social Security checks, bill payment, professional and personal correspondence, absentee ballots and importantly medications. In fact, my insurance requires me to receive my medications by mail in order to receive full prescription insurance coverage.
The Universal Service Obligation ensures that, no matter where you are in the United States, you will receive postal service six days a week. Recent suggestions to reduce USPS services will hit rural areas, our district, the hardest with limited routes, fewer post offices and fewer delivery dates. The USPS is not funded by tax dollars. It is self-funding, but like many organizations and businesses, has been hard hit by the pandemic resulting in reduced income from advertising.
I ask you to contact your representatives and encourage them to support our USPS. Our federal representative (Bergman) recently voted against support for the USPS and our state representative (LaFave) likewise tweeted his lack of support for the USPS. As your state representative I would fully support the institutions and organizations that promote and support the success of rural economies and quality of life in all respects.
Candidate for Michigan’s
108th State House
AUGUST 15, 2020
CONTACT: Mari Negro
FROM: Dr. Renee Richer
Our beautiful lakes and rivers are our source of fun and fishing, drinking water and water for agriculture. All of that is at risk unless we act decisively and swiftly to limit phosphorus from entering our waters. If we don’t take action to protect our water quality, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) linked to neuro-degenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease will be at our doorstep.
Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are comprised of cyanobacteria (also known as blue green algae) which turn the water pea soup green, smell bad and release neurotoxins into the water. HABs are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration because of increases in water temperature as a result of climate change and increasing phosphorus in the water. Phosphorus in the water acts as fertilizer for the cyanobacteria causing them to reproduce, producing a “bloom”. Increasing rainfall, caused by climate change, washes phosphorus from lawns and golf courses and other sources into lakes and rivers. Industrial agriculture also produces large amounts of phosphorus rich animal waste that must be disposed of properly to prevent release into waterways.
HABs can produce deadly liver toxins and neurotoxins and have been responsible for the deaths of humans and other animals. Exposure to these neurotoxins is linked with ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and causes brain cell death. Hotspots, with high rates of neurodegenerative disease, are associated with exposure to water bodies that regularly have HABs.
For more than a decade my research has been focused on how humans are exposed to HAB neurotoxins through water, food and air. We can be exposed thru water by drinking, swimming or enjoying other activities that take place in water with HABs. The neurotoxins in the water can accumulate in the bodies of fish or other aquatic organisms that we eat, making consumption of fish a health risk. The toxins can also become airborne from the water surface and inhaled. Crops that are irrigated with affected water can absorb and store neurotoxins in the tissue of the plants, serving as a source of exposure.
Currently, the Green Bay is one of 3 freshwater bodies being monitored by NASA for early warning sign of HABs as HABs are occurring further north in waters traditionally thought to be protected by cooler temperatures. Water temperatures are rising at unprecedented rates this year. Recently, Torch Lake, Portage Lake and Portage Canal were under a HAB advisory. Delta County, with the largest amount of freshwater coastline in the lower 48, may be especially impacted by HABs as they progress.
You can ensure our continued health and well-being are at the forefront by supporting efforts that limit phosphorus reaching our waterways. In this way we, our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the lakes and rivers as we always have.
Dr. Renee Richer, candidate for the 108 District State Representative, will be presenting her research work on cyanotoxins at the Environmental Engineering Graduate Seminar at Michigan Technological University on October 5, 2020 at 3pm eastern time via ZOOM.
AUGUST 9, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Benoit, Campaign Chair
Renee Richer for State Representative
Phone: +1 (906) 399-4195
Democrat Renee Richer’s campaign announces fundraising advantage over incumbent Republican Rep. LaFave
Escanaba, MI – with less than 100 days until the November general election, 108th District Democratic challenger Renee Richer has opened up a fundraising lead on her Republican opponent, incumbent Beau LaFave.
Recent state financial filings show that Richer out-raised LaFave by more almost a 4:1 ratio during the first half of 2020. Richer also ended the more cash-on-hand. It is very, rare for a challenger to outraise and have more cash-on-hand than an entrenched-incumbent like LaFave.
Richer stressed the importance of these fundraising numbers by saying: “our fundraising is driven by grassroots donors who want to see change in Lansing.” She went on to say, “I am beyond humbled and appreciative of the support we’ve received for our campaign. We plan on continuing the momentum and I look forward to being a voice for the people that call the Upper Peninsula home.”
Richer holds a PhD in Biology. She currently teaches at UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus in addition to operating a successful bed and breakfast and tending to the farm that has been in her family for five generations.
“Beau LaFave is a Representative that has consistently voted against the interests of the people in the 108. He has put his own rigid ideology ahead of serving the people of his district,” said Stephen Benoit, campaign chair for Renee Richer. “LaFave focuses on issues that do not benefit Michigan families, his focus has been on micro-chipping humans, protecting large corporations and attacking leaders. Providing misinformation and misleading the public only hurts the voices in the 108, the people of Michigan deserve a better voice in Lansing.”
Richer is running for State Representative in the 108th District which is made up of Delta, Dickinson, and Menominee counties. She has the support of Michigan AFL-CIO, the Rural Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, AFSCME Council 25, and a variety of progressive organizations that support a variety of important issues.
AUGUST 5, 2020
Article from "The Evening Look”
See original article here.
Renee Richer Wants to Bring Science, Maturity To The State House
Back in April, we featured Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), representative for Michigan’s 108th state House district, in an article entitled “The Weirdest Guy In The House.” We expected the article to reach our normal audience of bored James Madison students at MSU. Instead, it reached LaFave himself, who posted about it several times to prove that he was not mad and even selectively quoted it in his Twitter bio as if it was not an article making fun of him.
This sort of childish behavior is something you expect from say, a student blog, not an elected official. Fortunately, voters in District 108 have a much better choice. We had the honor to sit down over Zoom with Dr. Renee Richer (D-Gladstone), the candidate running against him this November, and we’re proud to say that we came away with a better understanding of what a good representative for the district sounds like.
As we talked, one of the first things that we noticed was that she is quite accomplished. How many House candidates can say that they are an award-winning environmental conservationist, a college professor, and a fifth-generation farmer? Well, Richer is all of these and more.
Richer became interested in biology, especially animal conservation, at a young age. “When I was young, I watched too much Wild Kingdom,” she said. “I had fantasies of being like [Wild Kingdom host] Marlin Perkins.”
After a harrowing summer studying black bears in North Carolina, she found her confidence in the forest and a footing in animal biology. She became the director of an environmental center at the American University in Armenia, where she was part of a team that expanded conservation efforts in the country using white storks. The project won the Whitley Award, a top conservation award, in 2007. She now teaches biology at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette and runs a bed-and-breakfast, The Farmhouse, on her family’s farm in Gladstone.
Richer’s science background makes her well-suited to tackle environmental issues that plague the 108th District. In our talk, she highlighted the presence of PFAS sites around the district. “We had military sites, the airports, and we have a number of sites associated with Great Lakes shipping,” she said. “Right on the Marinette-Menominee border, there’s probably one of the most devastating sites associated with the Tyco facility. . .some of the numbers say 220,000 parts per trillion [of PFAS chemicals].” (EPA guidelines say that PFAS contamination over 70 parts per trillion is unsafe.) She supports forcing polluters to pay for their pollution in a district that relies heavily on natural resources.
Another area where a science background is sorely needed in the district is in fighting COVID-19. Gov. Whitmer took aggressive actions against the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds of Michiganders approve of how she has handled the situation. You wouldn’t know that from following LaFave, who recently introduced a stunt bill to invoice China for Michigan’s pandemic-related expenses.
Of course, until recently the Upper Peninsula had a low rate of infection compared to the rest of the state. “We’re 3% of Michigan’s population, but 30% of the land, so that makes it very easy for us to social distance,” said Richer. But that doesn’t mean that the area isn’t affected. Richer herself has felt the impact of the coronavirus in her role as a professor. “It is extremely stressful,” she said, “when you’re waiting for the email every five minutes, telling you that something is going to change.” As college students, the shifting status of our classes is something that worries us. Some of us have entirely online classes, while others have a tangled mess of in-person and hybrid classes. Students and teachers have been shut out of the process of reopening schools, and electing a science professor gives these communities a voice in the House at a critical point for these groups.
Richer highlighted the impact of the opioid epidemic on her district. The Upper Peninsula has some of the highest rates in Michigan of opioid-related suicides and babies born dependent on opioids. Richer hopes to focus on mental health and incarceration policies to change that, seeking gentler policies to try and prevent opioid addiction before it happens. “We know that substance abuse is intimately tied to mental health,” she said. “When I went and talked to teachers and administrators and said, ‘What’s the number one thing you wish you could have?’, they’d say mental health assistance in the schools.” Mental health resources are helpful for students, and there’s no reason to think that increased spending towards that end would not decrease opioid usage.
The 108th District deserves someone who takes their problems seriously, not someone who spends their days getting into Twitter fights with state officials and student blogs. We believe that Renee Richer is a fantastic candidate, and we’re happy to write this in support of her this fall for State Representative.
Renee Richer’s campaign site is richerin2020.com.
– The Evening Look Team
JULY 23, 2020
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Microchipping has been great for finding lost pets. Cats and dogs that have gone astray have been returned home. Are we to be treated the same as cats and dogs by employers? Apparently our current state representative thinks so and was one of two representatives to vote in favor of microchipping employees.
A recent House Bill (HB 5672), the Microchip Protection Act, was introduced to prevent employers from demanding employees and potential employees from having devices implanted as a condition of employment or to obtain employment benefits. Mr. LaFave voted against this protection of the individual.
For someone who has claimed to be defending freedom and liberty of the individual, LaFave should be explaining this vote to us, his constituents. Is it the insurance industry, a major contributor to his campaign, that would benefit? Does the insurance industry want to monitor our health for their own financial benefit? Or could the microchip record our movements for tracking?
Whatever the reason, his vote in Lansing, goes against all our interests.
As a candidate for the 108th District, my vote would have spoken for every worker and against mandatory microchipping. The freedoms of every Michigan worker would be violated if microchipping were allowed in the workplace and made a condition of employment.
Dr. Renee Richer
Candidate for Michigan’s 108th House of Representatives
JUNE 26, 2020
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
"Polluters, resource plunderers protected by LaFave"
The COVID 19 pandemic has brought great changes and challenges to the U.P. While social distancing has protected us from the worst of the pandemic, the economic and social tolls are evident, while we still deal with the ongoing pandemic.
How our children will attend school in the fall remains to be seen. Will they be riding buses? How many kids in a classroom? Will teachers, students and parents be confident enough for schools to open fully?
Can we rebuild our small businesses and how? Much of the economic aid failed to go to our small businesses, the drivers of the local economy, while big business vacuumed up billions. Citizens still are unable to access unemployment benefits and unemployment offices remain closed. Delta County’s unemployment rate now hovers around 25%, while Dickinson and Menominee counties are at 14% unemployed.
Despite this, our current representative has spent his time in Lansing introducing a bill to protect polluters and natural resource plunderers from fines and jail time. House Bill 5831, introduced by representative LaFave and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and Recreation removes jail time and significant fines for a wide range of criminal activities while recommending fines as low as $25.
Has Mr. LaFave forgotten that our strength is our natural resources in this district? Why protect those that use “dynamite, nitroglycerin, other explosives or poisons to catch fish”? Maybe he thought we wouldn’t be paying attention while we try to save our small businesses, spend tens of hours trying to claim unemployment from a failed system while homeschooling our children.
For $70,000 a year I would hope that Mr. LaFave could focus on constituent services during a pandemic, rather than hoodwinking his district.
APRIL 8, 2020
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
In times of extreme distress people have two choices: to be leaders and do well or to assume the position of pointing fingers and placing blame. The latter only causes more chaos. During this pandemic, we have seen both sides and unfortunately some of the negative has been created by our leaders right here in the 108. I would like to shine a positive spotlight on the amazing leaders that are making a difference in our communities. One thing we do well in the district is to put aside the negative and get back to the fundamentals of being a community.
I am proud to call the people of the 108 my neighbors. Neighbors that are making face masks for healthcare workers and others in the community. Organizations like churches that are opening their facilities for blood drives and services for families in need; schools and volunteers providing boxes of food. Essential workers putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our economy moving, making the appropriate products that are being manufactured and delivered; healthcare workers keeping our loved ones safe and healthy and administering the appropriate treatment. Businesses looking out for our students that may be going hungry by providing free lunches. Our teachers transitioning to make sure students get their continued education online. Grocers and gas stations making sure we have necessities and their staff for making sure things are being sanitized and cleaned for everyone’s safety.
Most importantly we see leaders all around us. They are the folks practicing social distancing, abiding by the stay at home order, wearing masks when in public and washing and sanitizing hands. Doing some of these seemingly simple things will help to prevent the spread of the virus.
Upon closing, I would like to share an event that happened this weekend-it shows the 108’s pride in the U.P. A nursing facility in the northern part of the U.P. ran out of face masks. The good people from the 108th stepped up and masks were delivered there and to other places of need so that our neighbors could remain safe while working as essential workers. Hand sewn masks, gloves and N95 masks that our community had in their homes were gathered and delivered to places of need.
Thank you for stepping up 108, You are the true leaders!
We are UP Strong. We are hardy and resilient. We are the leaders of the 108. Our positive leadership will keep us unified.
With UP solidarity,
Candidate for Michigan’s 108th District
FEBRUARY 18, 2020
Article in Daily Press
"Richer seeks election to 108th Michigan House Seat"
See original article here.
ESCANABA — A Gladstone resident is running for state representative for Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties.
Renee Richer is a Democratic candidate running to represent Michigan’s 108th State House District.
According to Richer, she could do a better job in Lansing representing the three counties because of her experiences.
“I think I would do a better job of representing this district,” she said. “My life experiences (and) my professional experiences represent the experiences of the voters in this district.”
Richer describes those experiences as being a working mom, small business owner, educator, scientist, and worker on her family’s fifth generation Michigan Centennial farm.
Richer grew up on her family’s farm in Gladstone and she attended Holy Name Catholic School and Gladstone High School.
She went on to work through graduate school, earning a doctorate in biology from Harvard University.
Today, Richer runs a bed and breakfast at an 1888 farmhouse while also continuing to work on the family farm, raise her daughter and commute to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Marinette to teach.
“I know what it’s like to try and make a go of it in the Upper Peninsula, and it’s hard, and it is a struggle for families,” Richer said. “I am excited to go to Lansing and bring the voice of our district there and … work to improve the lives of working families in our district.”
Republican Beau LaFave currently represents the District 108. He was re-elected in 2018. His current term ends Dec. 31, 2020.
According to Richer, the most important difference between herself and LaFave is she is focused on making a difference in people’s lives.
“I’m focused on improving education in our district, I’m focused on improving the conditions for working families, and it seems as if our current representative is focused on making a lot of noise — divisive rhetoric,” Richer said.
She added another difference is her background in science.
“The second important difference is what I bring from my personal experience — my personal life experiences, as well as, my professional life experiences,” Richer said. “I think in-particular there needs to be the voice of scientists in Lansing.”
The issues Richer is focusing on in her campaign include protecting the area’s water and and the health of residents, tax fairness for families and seniors, close and affordable healthcare, education for every talent and career, and fairness and transparency in Lansing.
“Under that umbrella, there are some relatively easy fixes that we could do in regards to improving healthcare,” Richer said. “I know a young man whose father has cancer and he has to drive his father more than 100 miles every day for treatment because we don’t have access to that type of treatment here in Escanaba. And that has to do with regulations that were passed in the 1970s. I think, again, we need to bring that voice down to Lansing and say these types of regulations are really impacting our ability to access healthcare.”
Two issues that have garnered the attention of many voters within Michigan, including Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties, includes the Enbridge Line 5 and Second Amendment sanctuary counties.
Enbridge Line 5 is a major oil pipeline in the Enbridge Lakehead System, which conveys petroleum from western Canada to eastern Canada through the Great Lakes states.
Public concerns have particularly focused on the risk of a spill under the Straits of Mackinac, and the difficulty of controlling any spill that might occur.
“I think the current set up is incredibly risky — particularly for Delta County given the amount of coastline we have,” Richer said. “So, the Line 5 tunnel would be, as proposed, the fasted way to protect our lakes from any potential spill. So my focus is on solving that problem as quickly as possible in the most effective manner.”
A Second Amendment sanctuary counties are counties that have adopted resolutions to prohibit or impede the enforcement of certain gun law measures perceived as unconstitutional.
Delta County recently became a sanctuary county. Richer said she supports the Second Amendment, but sees sanctuary resolutions as creating a divide in a community where there isn’t a divide on guns. “Well obviously, I support the Second Amendment,” she said.
“I come from a hunting family. I grew up hunting with my father. … The resolution, as passed, was about … bringing more divisions in a community where I don’t see there’s a division about guns.”
Each county that makes up Michigan’s 108th District faces its own unique challenges.
According to Richer, to make sure she is the best voice representing Dickinson, Menominee and Delta Counties she is going out and listening to the residents of those counties.
“What I really want to do is spend a lot of time with voters. I am already spending time with voters,” she said. “I know sometimes the districts’ interests may conflict but, again, I want to represent the voice of the majority.”
Overall, Richer said her goal is to improve the conditions of the counties so working families can succeed here.
“Our family has been here for five generations, so this is my home, this is my community, (and) this is where I hope my daughter will make her future and her life,” Richer said. “My focus is on making that possible. There are so many families that see their children go off to university or college and they just don’t have the opportunity to come back. My focus will be on … improving the district in a way that families can stay together and families can develop long term heritage in the district, like we have and like I hope we continue.”