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Two candidates face off in Michigan's first Libertarian gubernatorial primary

Bill Gelineau and John Tatar
Bill Gelineau and John Tatar are running in Michigan's first Libertarian primary.

Michigan Libertarians usually nominate their candidate for governor at a party convention. But this year, voters will choose the nominee. The Libertarian Party won enough votes in the 2016 elections to qualify as a major party, setting up its first-ever primary election for governor. Two candidates will be on the ballot Tuesday.

Bill Gelineau is a businessman from Grand Rapids, and twice chaired the Michigan Libertarian Party. John Tatar is a retired Livonia school teacher and an Army veteran. Both men attended Wayne State University. Both have run small businesses. And both disdain the two-party system of American politics.

Gelineau compares Republican and Democratic establishments to gangs, specifically the Bloods and the Crips. He says they even have the same colors as those gangs: red and blue.

“And the thing about gangs is, you know, they don’t worry a whole lot about other people, they cause a lot of problems, they protect each other, and along the way our taxpayers and what people want gets lost in the mix,” he says.

Gelineau and his opponent, John Tatar, say state government wastes too much money. Tatar says part of the problem is a lack of transparency when it comes to spending the people’s money.

“What happened to the $60 million that was collected from roads from the 10-cent gas tax? Where did that go? How was it spent? We don’t know," says Tatar. "You’d have to do some serious digging to find out.”

Tatar says he would eliminate the state income tax. Bill Gelineau supports that part of the Libertarian platform, but says a bigger priority for him is lowering the cap on state revenue by 10 percent. He says that would make Michigan more attractive to businesses.

He says, “They can bring their businesses here and not get tax inordinately. And what that will do, obviously, is help people get better jobs and have more opportunities.”

Gelineau and Tatar have similar views on most issues, such as marijuana. They both support the ballot proposal to legalize recreational pot — a term Tatar admits he doesn’t like. He prefers the word “cannabis” and points out that hemp is eco-friendly.

“Hemp is a totally biodegradable kind of green product that produces no pollution, but yet can power a vehicle, and/or you could use the oil from hemp. We can make clothes out of hemp, plastics out of hemp.”

Gelineau says he would pardon everyone who’s committed a low-level drug offense as long as it didn’t involve a violent crime. He also says Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished. Gelineau says he would stand up to President Trump if he tried to mobilize the National Guard without a declaration of war or a national emergency.

“And," he adds, "I would defy an order of a Republican, Democrat, or any other president that would put our men and women into harm’s way that did not have the consent of Congress, which is required under the statute.”

On immigration, Tatar says he has no problem with people who come here legally, as his parents did. But he would ban sanctuary cities. He also wants to get rid of Common Core education standards and No Child Left Behind.

“Some children need to be left behind. Some children ought to be left behind because they don’t have the skills to move onto the next level.”

Tatar, who taught for 31 years, says students can acquire those skills if they have the kind of teaching that sparks a desire to learn instead of teaching to a standardized test.

Bill Gelineau says the state could invest hundreds of millions of dollars in education and infrastructure by eliminating things like Pure Michigan and the Michigan Strategic Fund. And both say they’d protect the state’s water by making corporations pay for pollution.

Tatar has run for Congress five times. Gelineau has run for the U.S. House and the State Legislature. Whoever gets more votes on August 7th will become a first-time election winner.

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