Republican state Rep. Jim Lilly squares off against Democrat Anita Marie Brown for 89th District seat

Laveta Brigham

KENT COUNTY, MI — Republican state Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, will face Democratic challenger Anita Marie Brown in the Nov. 3 general election for Michigan’s 89th House District seat. Lilly is seeking a third, two-year term representing the district that covers the cities of Ferrysburg and Grand Haven, and […]

KENT COUNTY, MI — Republican state Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, will face Democratic challenger Anita Marie Brown in the Nov. 3 general election for Michigan’s 89th House District seat.

Lilly is seeking a third, two-year term representing the district that covers the cities of Ferrysburg and Grand Haven, and townships of Blendon, Crockery, Grand Haven, Olive, Park, Port Sheldon, Robinson and Spring Lake.

Brown, a therapist, is looking to upset Lilly in the Republican-leaning district.

Meet the two candidates:

  • Jim Lilly, 39, of Park Township, was first elected in 2016. He shared on the Voters Guide under qualifications and experience that he has significant experience in economics and public policy. He said he earned a Bachelor of Science in economics from John Carroll University and received his MBA from Grand Valley State University.
  • Anita Marie Brown, 58, of Holland, is a freelance therapist. Under qualifications and experience, she shared on the Voters Guide that she has done social work and worked in area schools and knows firsthand that the Michigan Legislature has “let us down.” She said she will be a voice for the people. Brown says she earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Grand Valley State University and her master’s in psychology from the University of Phoenix.

MLive Media Group partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information for readers. Each candidate was asked to outline their stances on a variety of public policy issues.

Information on all state and federal races and many of Michigan’s county and local races is available at, an online voter guide created by the League of Women Voters.

Below are Lilly and Brown’s unedited responses to six policy questions from education to social justice.

What is your position on the role of public funding of education in Michigan? What measures do you support/propose to improve educational outcomes and accessibility for all Michigan students?

Lilly: As a state, we continue to invest in our education system and the future of our children at record levels. Our per pupil funding continues to increase year over year and we have worked hard to close funding disparities between districts. We need to continue this investment in our future while ensuring schools are teaching our children effectively and being transparent about their results. Using data to identify schools that are allowing students to fall behind and focusing on early intervention in the K-12 system is critical to ensuring students across the state receive an education that sets them up for their future.

Brown: Michigan’s K-12 educational system is falling behind other states, and for two simple reasons. Our state budget has failed to prioritize what works: supporting teachers, and support students. In Lansing, I will fight for higher wages, and higher funding per student. I will fight to end senseless rules like the 3rd grade reading law, and do all I can for guaranteeing every child can have an inclusive, transformative education in our public schools. Michigan is also home to some of the best higher education in the world. I will prioritize making Michigan’s great colleges and universities accessible to all students.

What policies do you support to increase jobs and help Michigan residents improve their economic positions, in general and given the pandemic?

Lilly: I support the policies Michigan has enacted over the last decade to return to a pro-business climate that prior to the pandemic had allowed small businesses to flourish driven our unemployment rate down. In the wake of COVID-19 I believe it is important to focus on reopening our economy through the lens of safe vs unsafe. We need to make transparent, data driven decisions about which sectors of our economy can operate safely.

Brown: I will do everything I can to make sure that Michigan is the best place to get a job. We need to make Michigan appealing to workers through strong support of labor, high wages, and quality benefits. We need to invest in public assets like infrastructure and transportation. As for the pandemic, I fully support our state leading the way in manufacturing necessary equipment to fight COVID-19. We need to ensure that those who cannot work are provided for, and those who must are protected. I will fight to make our state services like Unemployment Insurance easily accessible online, at home.

What state policies do you support regarding Michigan elections, voting and campaign funding? Do you support mailing ballots to all eligible voters?

Lilly: Ensuring a secure and transparent election process is of the utmost importance in Michigan. I will always continue to search for ways to improve our system, but the Secretary of State already provides a much-needed level of transparency into where candidates and political action committees receive their donations from. To ensure that Michigan’s elections remain as secure as possible, more needs to be done in the way of consistent updates to Michigan’s qualified voter file and security measures that guarantee the accuracy of mailing ballots before we begin a conversation on mailing ballots to all eligible voters.

Brown: Every resident of Michigan who is an eligible voter should be automatically registered, and receive a ballot to vote at home. We must prioritize hand counted, paper ballots, and full transparency in the election process. I fully support ballot initiatives to make our state more democratic, such as the approval of the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission. Campaigns should ultimately be publicly funded, but until then, the legislature should support making our elections more transparent by supporting the Secretary of State through adequate funding, and making all of the state government subject to FOIA.

What actions or policies do you support to protect Michigan’s water, air and land for current and future generations? What is your position on energy efficiency and renewable energy?

Lilly: Michigan’s natural resources are our greatest asset which is why I have spent significant energy on policies to combat the negative impact of the rising levels of the Great Lakes and overhauling our bottle deposit system to divert more money to proper enforcement and proactive recycling programs. As the energy landscape begins to shift toward more efficient and renewable sources, it is vital that we remain cognizant of the cost implications for Michiganders and slowly incorporate these new systems into our power grid to continue providing consistent and affordable energy for the people of our state.

Brown: We can’t risk selling out our state’s resources to companies that don’t care about us. With what Enbridge did to Kalamazoo, we can’t afford Line 5 in the Mackinac straights. We can’t let Nestle bleed us dry for pennies a day. When we have a Democratic State House next term, I will push for every provision that will protect our natural resources, clean up environmental disasters, and make Michigan a hub for the development of renewable energy resources. I will make sure affected community members have a seat at the table, and prioritize reaching net neutral carbon emissions by 2030.

How would you address the racial, economic, health, education, etc. inequities, including Michigan’s 20% of children and 17% of seniors living in poverty?

Lilly: The most effective way we can fight to ensure these inequities are remedied is by providing every student in our state with a high-quality education and every Michigander with access to a good job. We need to continue to hold our schools to high standards and empower parents to make well informed decisions about the schools they are sending their children to. We need to expand opportunities in the K-12 system for those who want to enter the skilled trades, and help people reengage in the workforce through programs like MI Reconnect.

Brown: Prejudiced, anti-democratic policies like the Emergency Manager Law destroyed the autonomy of communities of color around the state, the worst case example being the Flint Water Crisis. Our next legislature needs to embrace an inclusive, democratic mindset. Inequities based on race, class, health, gender, sexuality and more are made worse through exclusion. Along with fighting for healthcare for all that will help our marginalized youth and elders against runaway economic inequality, I will be sure to elevate voices of everyone in my district, and beyond. Every voice will have a place in my office.

Do you believe that Michigan has a gun violence problem? If so, what measures would you support to alleviate this problem?

Lilly: Anytime any innocent person is the victim of violence it is a problem. But I do not believe Michigan specifically has a gun violence problem; however, it is important that we remain dedicated to ensuring that one does not develop. Continued support and expansion of mental health resources is vital to stopping gun violence and violence in other forms here in Michigan and is a policy area I am very supportive of.

Brown: I believe that our problems with guns are three-fold. First it is still too easy to get weapons of war that far exceed the capacity of anything needed for hunting or self defense. That needs to change. Next, our failure nationally to study gun violence should not serve as an excuse for Michigan to not have an in depth understanding of how and why gun violence spreads. We must treat it like the epidemic it is, and look into preventative resources for individuals and institutions to curb the spread. Finally, we should encourage gun enthusiasts to reject the corporate lobby, and foster a new, sensible gun culture.

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