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Meet 8th District Libertarian candidate David Canny

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan's 8th Congressional District is considered a "toss-up" in this year's midterm election, largely due to recently redrawn redistricting maps. There's been a Kildee representing this part of Michigan since 1977, starting with Dale Kildee. Dan Kildee succeeded his uncle in 2013. But with the new lines, the race isn't as clear cut as it might have been in previous years. Reporter Steve Carmody spoke with the candidates running in the district, including Libertarian candidate David Canny. Get to know more about him in the interview below.

The first question is, why do you want to be in Congress?

I don't want to be in Congress. The last place in the world that I want to be is in Washington, D.C., and in that swamp. But the reality is somebody has to do it. We have a Congress that is absolutely broken. It's been broken for a long time. And it's not Republicans. It's not Democrats. It's both. It's a bipartisan effort. Last time I looked, we have 437 Republicans and Democrats in Congress with an approval rating of 16%. [Editor’s note - there are 435 members of the House of Represenatives and 100 members of the Senate. The House also has five delegates and one resident commissioner that are non-voting.] Something is fundamentally wrong with the process there and it needs to change and I believe it can be changed. I don't think we're stuck with that. And I don't think we're gone over a cliff.

Is that, then, the most important issue for you in this campaign? Do you believe the system is broken and these two parties are responsible?

That is the most important issue to me. Absolutely.

So how can you change it there?

It's going to have to be a group effort. One person is not going to change it. But, one at a time, a group of us, one person making the same noise and working together can make that change enough. I've got a history in my career of getting out there and working with bipartisan groups in the business world and groups with multifunctional agendas, and getting out there and being able to work with people that you totally disagree with to achieve results, to make things happen. I've been able to do that successfully. And there's a few people in Washington that really want to make change happen. It's working with them and then taking every opportunity, working with the others to drive that change. They'll be few and far between for a long time, but we got to this point incrementally. It didn't happen overnight. It's happened over 100 years and more. We need to start taking those steps to make the changes.

What has been your professional background until now?

I'm pretty much retired. We have the secondhand store in Byron and then my career was in the retail seafood industry. It was a great career. And I got to travel the world in different fisheries, five continents. My last job was at Whole Foods Market, based out of Chicago. We cover the Midwest, Midwest region, so it was stores from Toronto to Saint Louis and Omaha and everything in between. And we had terrific seafood departments. But I'd be out there, writing contracts, projecting the needs of fresh fish and delivery. So getting an extremely perishable product from market on the other side of the world to the Midwest and getting it through the system in a timely manner takes a lot of work. It was it was a lot of fun. It was a good career.

We're asking all the candidates about election denials from 2020 and if there’s a need for changes in the voting systems that some argue might restrict voting access in this country. What's your opinion about this? Was the 2020 election, an open, fair election?

I think it was probably as open and fair as most elections have been. I don't think that there was a concerted effort to steal the election. But I do think there were questionable things happening and some places really needed to be looked into in different states.

Do you think the things that have been done in Michigan and other states have been the correct approach, to tighten up some of the restrictions on absentee ballots and voter I.Ds?

I do have concerns about some of those things. If it's too wide open, I think there's an increased opportunity for fraud and for things to go wrong. So I do like to see the process being tightened up. I was happy to see that the dead voters are being dropped from the rolls more frequently. That's a positive. Do I think thousands of dead people voted last time around? No. But I think the opportunity, any chance you have to eliminate the opportunity for fraud, it's well worth doing.

I mean, I have thoughts about the whole election. First, I think the overreaction- the reaction was probably overblown. I don't think it was a threat to democracy. A lot of it is politics. A lot of it is just playing for the media to throw red meat to their bases. So I think that there's more that we need to be hearing on the 24/7 news cycle. But personally, I would like to see Election Day be a national holiday and really encourage people to vote on Election Day, maybe a few days early, maybe a couple of days. But make sure that we have polling places, a sufficient number of polling places in all communities with it, with an acceptable number of open hours so people can get out there and vote. I would personally go so far as to encourage a $100 bill to everybody that shows up with I.D. and votes on Election Day. Give people an incentive and make it a national holiday, get people a day off. Voting is important. It's a fundamental right. It's also an obligation which should be taken very seriously.

What role do you see Congress playing on the issue of abortion going forward?

I don't think the U.S. Congress has much of a role in abortion going forward. I am of the mindset where it's not a national issue or a federal government issue. I think it is a state issue which pretty much tells you where I fall on it. But I agree with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a lot of ways. As far as Roe being not decided correctly, really, she felt the outcome justified that, but still wasn't a correct decision. And so I get that.

My personal views on abortion, I don't think it's something you should legislate out of. I don't think that's reality. When I was a kid, I was a young kid of maybe 11 or 12 years old, and we lived in an apartment complex in New York. And one of my buddies, his mom was a single parent. They were the first ones in the neighborhood to have a color TV and I'd go there on a Wednesday and watch Batman in color. It was a big deal. And years later, many years later, I found out from my mom, that my buddy's mom worked for an abortion doctor in New York in the 1960s. I said, “Well no wonder they had the color TV!” But it's something that's been there and it was illegal. Even if it's illegal, it'll still be there. It'll be out there. It won't be safe. I think if you want to see a number of abortions minimized, make alternatives more available, cut some of the restrictions on adoptions, get out there with them with prenatal care for expectant mothers, single mothers, give them the opportunity if they want to have that baby, to have that baby safely and protect them. Show them the other alternatives, that there was adoption and getting homes that are a good life for that baby. And the things out there, as far as just making making it socially unacceptable to have an abortion is probably a much better alternative than making it illegal.

You describe yourself as a libertarian. 

Yeah, very much so.

So then what are your thoughts about gun control? What, if anything, should the federal government be doing to control weapons?

I am a Second Amendment guy. I don't think there should be much, if any, restrictions on firearms. Maybe some restrictions on tanks and cannons for the individual, maybe. But I think it's an important right. I think all of our basic rights are very important. You look at the ten amendments to the Bill of Rights. [Ed note - The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the Constitution.] Those are all very important and they shouldn't be messed with easily. But there is a process if this country wants to do something about the Second Amendment; there's an amendment process that can be done. I don't think it should be done through Congress or executive order. There's a process that's out there to make changes in the Constitution. If, as a nation, we want to do that.

But I imagine you wouldn't support amending the Constitution to repeal or significantly alter the Second Amendment?

No, I wouldn't. I think it's important. I think the right to bear arms is important for a number of reasons, be it the hunters, be it protection or to put it on the shelf in case we ever need it for self-defense from our own government or another government, whatever is out there. I think it's important that we have that right. I've been talking to some of the guys at Black Guns Matter about a possible joint fundraiser in Flint. One of the longtime clubs in Flint needs a new roof. I think that for the Libertarian Party, I think it's just a real missed opportunity for the minority community to get them involved with the party. I think we're a natural home for a lot of people. I think we should be out there expanding our appeal.

Do you see a role for the federal government when it comes to doing anything to do with climate change?

Here's where we're going to get in trouble.

Get in trouble with me or with Libertarians? 

Maybe both. I remember when I was in middle school, we had posters about the global freezing catastrophe that was coming. And for 50 plus years I've been hearing nonstop about the imminent danger to our planet due to climate change, due to man-made climate change. All of these predictions have been wrong. So much of the data has been wrong for over 50 years. People are still setting up beach chairs on the same beach, in the same spot, on the same beaches that they were setting them up 50 years ago. The beach is still there.

So I look at this and I say, these people are either lying or they don't know what they're talking about. So why am I going to listen to them? I'll listen. But why would I change my lifestyle? Even more so, why would I sacrifice my lifestyle for something that has been so consistently wrong for so long? And I mentioned this to my 23 year old son the other day, and he said, well, what if this time they're right? And I said, “Oops.”

When I look at the biggest proponents of the man-made climate change crisis and the need for man to sacrifice, the biggest proponents of this are flying around the planet on private jets and expensive yachts, living in oceanfront front mansions with no solar panels. Believe it or not, eating top of the line steaks, endangered species with bearnaise sauce, and living the high life while telling us that we need to wear sweaters in our homes in the winter to save the planet. I'm not buying into it. We used to call it weather. Some summers are harder than others. Some winters are colder than others. Sometimes there are tornadoes and floods. And there always have been. That said, I do think it's good to take some actions to limit some of our footprint on the planet. But as far as increasing the cost of a car by $3,000 to reduce the emissions another 1/10 of 1%, I don't think that's a responsible decision.

What are your thoughts on the economy and what the government should be doing?

The Libertarian in me says, what government should do is get out of the way. Let the economy work. I think we are in trouble due to over regulation over restrictions. We have a Congress that has really sacrificed so much of its obligations and responsibilities, letting lobbyists for these corporations write so much of this legislation that is eliminating their competition. It is not a free market economy. It's not a laissez faire economy. It's crony capitalism really, at its worst, and it's Republicans and Democrats both doing it, and it's the biggest problem. But if you combine that with a Federal Reserve that's out of control, that has complete autonomy to print money and profit. The Federal Reserve is not just one single entity, it's private banks, and they're printing money, and it's going to these banks and they're investing this money. They're putting this money in the market and corporation, profiting tremendously from it. And then when the time comes, they start pulling out. The market starts falling. People lose billions if not trillions of dollars in their 401Ks and their savings because of this boom and bust game that's being played by the Federal Reserve and the government. I think the government needs to get out of the way with these regulations and restrictions.

A great thing Thomas Massie out of Kentucky has proposed is the Prime Act. It would enable meat processors in the states to be able to process meat and sell it within that state. It would be inspected by state inspectors. It would be a safe product, but it would take it out of the hands of just three or four companies nationwide that have a monopoly and total control on the meat industry.

He can't get it out of committee. This is where Congress is really failing. We have so many small packers that could cut down the cost, that could logistically make so much more sense, and getting this product to the people that need it. It makes good economic sense. It would cost less to do it. It would be closer to home, closer to the end user, and we can't get a move on it because of the ties that business has with Congress.

The other thing we need to be doing is working with the inner cities and encouraging the states to lower their licensing and regulations and restrictions across the board. But certainly in those communities where these people can open up businesses. I had been a fan of the opportunity zones, in theory I thought they were a great idea. But now that we're seeing data on these zones, we're not getting the results that were projected out of those. 

You ran in the 4th District last time, but now with redistricting you'll be running in the 8th. Has the way this district has been changed offer any opportunities to yourself or other candidates to run in this district, which for a long time has been dominated by one family.

I think the opportunity for that to change is certainly there. With Genesee County and Flint being the largest part of it, I don't really think it's a dramatic change, but there are some additional areas where the (Kildee) family is not as well known, was not the household name, which is probably an opportunity for another candidate to step up.

Does it give you a better chance of getting your voice heard?

Not necessarily. I really don't think so. It's a big area. It's tough for a candidate with no party recognition in a state where you have single party voting options. As long as that exists, third party candidates really have a very uphill battle in Michigan. So it's a matter of getting every opportunity you can get to get the message out there. And hopefully, if it's a message that engages people and captures their interests and gives us a deeper, harder look, that's our opportunity. There's no number of signs that I could put on the road that would make that difference. It's a matter of getting out there, letters to the editor, interviews, maybe some Facebook broadcasting, but it's more about messaging and even a lot of the online questionnaires and online surveys out there, they'll ask questions about the issues, but you have 150 characters to give your answer.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Taylor Bowie is a senior studying English Literature at the University of Michigan and an intern in the Michigan Radio newsroom. She is originally from Owosso, Michigan.
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