EDWARDSBURG - No, says Clark Durant, one of several Republicans vying to challenge U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, next year, he does not favor widening the gap between the rich and poor.
On Wednesday at the Ontwa Township Hall, Durant, who decades ago lived in Niles while studying for his law degree at the University of Notre Dame, clarified a remark he recently made at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, where he was quoted as saying the gap between rich and poor “should be wider.” As an example, he made reference to the late Steve Jobs, saying he made life better for the remaining 99 percent.
“You want to create opportunities for people with their unique gifts,” he continued, adding Occupy Wall Street protesters should “go find a job.”
On Wednesday, he argued his comments were misinterpreted.
“I don’t want the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer ... I’m for the 100 percent,” he said.
The latter reference was to the rally cry of Occupy Wall Street protesters, who have taken issue with the separation of wealth in the U.S. and have argued they’re among the 99 percent who have little while the other 1 percent make much more than they need. His only intent in Grand Rapids, Durant said, was to challenge students to embrace the concept that all manner of people are needed for the country to thrive.
And for that to happen, Durant told a small group of Cass County Republicans and tea party supporters Wednesday, Congress needs to return to reality. The 2012 election isn’t about President Barack Obama, he said, but the opportunity to turn out politicians like Stabenow, who he said have failed by allowing the country’s out of control debt to continue to spiral.
He took issue also with former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the front-runner for the GOP nomination to challenge Stabenow. Calling him a “fine guy” and “good conservative” who favors limited government, Durant said also that he, like Stabenow, often voted in Congress to increase spending and debt.
“He did all the things that are crushing our country right now,” he said. “You can’t be a go-along Republican or go-along Democrat, because our country won’t go along with that.”
Durant called for simplifying the tax code in such a way that individual tax returns can be filled out on postcards, emphasizing as well that workers should be allowed to keep more of what they earn. He also called for energy independence, arguing the U.S. has enough oil deposits to keep the country afloat for 300 years.
Pointing to his work in education and the private sector, the former president of the Michigan Board of Education had one more selling point.
“I’m not a career politician. I’m from the outside,” he said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: