When Republican Rep. Eric Leutheuser talks political philosophy, he uses a trinity of institutions as his guiding principles in Michigan’s House of Representatives.
“Family, church, and local community support American civil life when they are successful,” Leutheuser said. “When those institutions are under attack, our society wobbles. Local communities are weakened all the time when federal and state institutions take more and more control.”
On Nov. 8, Leutheuser will seek a second term as the state representative for District 58, which includes Hillsdale and Branch County. He faces Democrat Mary Hamaty.
A native Michigander, Leutheuser grew up in Hillsdale before graduating from Hillsdale College in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He married a fellow graduate, the daughter of now retired Hillsdale Professor of History John Willson, and raised three daughters, who all attended Hillsdale Academy and Hillsdale College.
His ties to the area he represents aren’t simply personal, though — Leutheuser recently sold the family-owned car dealership, Leutheuser Motors, Inc., he worked at for 30 years.
“Having a job day in and day out where I got together with people, listened, and tried to be helpful was great training for my job as a representative,” Leutheuser said.
After following his father into business, Leutheuser also took cues from his family when he made the decision to dive into the world of local politics. His grandfather, a first-generation German immigrant, served as postmaster in Somerset, Michigan, and his father, Paul Leutheuser, served as a two-time mayor of Hillsdale in 1966 and 1967.
Recalling a slogan he’d heard from a mentor of his college days, Leutheuser said he decided to run for office because his time to learn and his time to earn had passed, and he knew it was time to serve.
In 2014, Leutheuser won a spot in the House with 71.5 percent of votes against Democrat Amaryllis Thomas.
“I probably won because my dad was a good dealer and treated people well,” Leutheuser said. “People looked at the list and said ‘yeah I trust him, he’s a good businessman.’”
During his 2014 campaign, Leutheuser expanded upon his well-established name, knocking on doors all over Hillsdale and Branch County.
“When you’re running at this level, the race is intimate,” Leutheuser said. “There’s no focus group. It’s just belly-to-belly, face-to-face on someone’s doorstep.”
Leutheuser said his greatest accomplishment during his first two years in the House was his sponsorship on a bill supporting faith-based adoption.
“It goes back to the big three,” he said. “Family, church, and local community.”
This bill protects private faith-based adoption agencies from policies forcing them to give children to unmarried or homosexual couples who violate their religious beliefs.
“The state has made significant progress in finding more forever homes for Michigan kids in recent years, and that wouldn’t be possible without the public-private partnerships that facilitate the adoption process,” Gov. Rick Snyder said after signing the bill into law last year.
As a freshman, Leutheuser also sponsored bills that placed tighter restrictions on controlled substances; declared October breast cancer awareness month; and qualified farmers for tax exemptions on agricultural equipment.
But that was last term. Leutheuser is back to campaigning for reelection, and one project sits at the top of the agenda for his next term — reforming Michigan’s automobile insurance.
Michigan law requires drivers to buy no-fault insurance, which covers medical expenses, wage loss benefits, replacement services, and the damage to others’ property, according to the state’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
No-fault insurance pays a monthly maximum of $5,398 to families of those injured or killed in auto accidents, and provides a maximum of $20 a day to pay for “routine household services which injured persons are no longer able to provide for themselves or their families,” according to the DIFS. They will also provide up to $1 million in compensation for third party property damaged in accidents.
With coverage like this, Michigan drivers get big bills. According to carinsurance.com, drivers in Detroit, Michigan, pay an average of $5,109 a year, the highest annual rate in the U.S.
Leutheuser said he wants Michigan to give its drivers the option of less extensive and less expensive coverage.
“We need to give people a choice,” he said.
Should Leutheuser represent Hillsdale County in the next two terms, he said he plans to remain active in local politics after his third term.
“People are trying to do the right thing out there,” he said. “The state should not get in the way — it should help them.”