District 26 (Royal Oak and Madison Heights): Republican Michael Goodman, 55, of Royal Oak, is focusing on lowering taxes. But one issue isn't enough to discount the effective way Democratic incumbent MARIE DONIGAN, 54, of Royal Oak, has worked across partisan lines on issues such as increasing access to public transportation and promoting job growth through expanded public-private partnerships.
District 27 (Berkley, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and part of Oak Park): Patent attorney ELLEN COGEN LIPTON, 41, of Huntington Woods, a Democrat, is the best choice to succeed term-limited Democrat Andy Meisner. Republican David Micola of Ferndale is running on a platform of lowering taxes. But Cogen Lipton stands out for her well-rounded grasp of issues such as health care reform and energy innovation, and for her extensive community involvement. She's a doer who understands her district's core concerns.
District 29 (Pontiac and Auburn Hills): Democrat TIM MELTON, 38, of Auburn Hills, is the incumbent and remains the district's best choice over Pontiac's Scott Sampeer, a 30-year-old Republican making his first run for office. Melton's leadership role on the House Education Committee and his energetic style should help bring more attention to his district, particularly resource-starved Pontiac.
DISTRICT 35 (Southfield, Lathrup Village, Royal Oak Township and part of Oak Park): The Democrat in this race, VINCENT GREGORY, 60, of Southfield, is a long-term, well-respected county commissioner who has championed causes such as the preservation of Catalpa Park. Republican Katie Koppin of Lathrup Village did not respond to Free Press requests for an interview.
DISTRICT 37 (Farmington, Farmington Hills): Both candidates vying to succeed Democrat Aldo Vagnozzi bring loads of name recognition and political experience. As the former executive director of the Oakland County Republican Party, Paul Welday, 50, of Farmington Hills, knows Lansing and many of the issues leaders wrestle with.
But Democrat and former Farmington Hills mayor VICKI BARNETT, 54, offers voters something more: fresh ideas and first-rate financial skills. She's an investment consultant who has trained local governments on municipal finance, skills that would be an asset in the ongoing debate about whether to overhaul the Michigan Business Tax. More notable are Barnett's ideas for job growth, particularly a plan to have Michigan partner with neighboring Great Lakes states in establishing a regional alliance to lobby as one voice for economic growth. Her ability to think big, along with her experience balancing budgets, makes her stand out.
DISTRICT 45 (Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township): Voters ought to give the seat being vacated by Republican John Garfield to Rochester Democrat RANDY YOUNG, a 48-year-old environmental science professor who owns a small financial planning business. He is involved with a range of issues, including serving as a member of the Clinton River Watershed Council. Young has an independent streak that indicates he'd break partisan ranks if need be, particularly on the Michigan Business Tax. Young is up against Republican Tom McMillin, 43, of Rochester Hills, a CPA and well-known social conservative who has held office at the local and county levels.