Mike Shirkey meets with con­stituents at Jilly Beans. Courtesy|Mike Shirkey

“Want to talk about mar­i­juana?” Michigan Sen. Mike Shirkey, the Repub­lican incumbent, asks the ten or so Hillsdale County con­stituents gathered near him for an open Q&A session at Jilly Beans coffee shop on Monday.

Nodding, they do. Polls suggest the legal­ization ballot ini­tiative might not pass, though it’s close, Shirkey says, knocking on the wooden bench next to him. He’s adamantly against legal­ization, and the topic con­sumed more time than any other at the coffee hour, where the Repub­lican incumbent is cam­paigning for the 16th-dis­trict Michigan senate seat, which he’s held for the last four years.

About a half an hour into the coffee hour, Shirkey had already touched on issues Hillsdale County res­i­dents brought up, including a bill regarding pharmacy benefit man­agers’ trans­parency and how they’re affecting smaller drug stores, and a tree-removal effort along roads in Adams Township.

Per­sonable and sharp — he greeted a few incomers by their first names, without their prompting — Shirkey lis­tened and parried con­stituents’ ques­tions with ques­tions of his own, expressing a limited-gov­ernment approach on most issues.

“Do you want state gov­ernment to get involved in the County Road Com­mission?” he asked the man who was con­cerned about losing his trees.

After hearing the constituent’s concern, he turned to his aid: “Okay, Molly, write these three points on these grants for tree removal. How do county road com­mis­sions them­selves pri­or­itize which [roads] are on the top of the list? Do they have to prove it’s a safety issue? If there’s value in the tree who receives the value?”

He even grounded his not-so-lib­er­tarian stance on mar­i­juana in terms of keeping gov­ernment out of people’s lives.

“We have social­istic expec­ta­tions for healthcare and other public ser­vices drive by cap­i­tal­istic incen­tives,” he said, noting that that is “by def­i­n­ition a con­flict of con­flicts.”

Mar­i­juana legal­ization is “increasing the prob­a­bility of people who are needing help,” he said, adding that the gov­ernment will end up stepping in. “It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle.”

Shirkey also brought up the national popular vote, a cause he calls “the Elec­toral College, Gen­er­ation Two.” Shirkey co-spon­sored a package of bills this month that would adjoin Michigan to an inter­state compact that elects the pres­ident by national popular vote.

“When our Founders created the elec­toral college, I don’t think they under­stood how bril­liant it was,” Shirkey said. “The other thing they did that was just as or more bril­liant was say the allo­cation of elec­toral votes within states is strictly a state’s decision.”

Noting that the number of swing states is shrinking, Shirkey said he foresees a problem “where you get to the point where there are so many pre­dictably [red or blue states] the rest of us may as well not vote.”

The solution may be for states to allocate their elec­toral votes according to the popular vote within their states, rather than winner-take-all.

“I’m raising the question,” Shirkey said.

Evan Mekas, 68, a retired com­mercial business manager, said he agrees with Shirkey on many issues, espe­cially his skep­ticism of mar­i­juana (“How would legal­izing mar­i­juana improve our society?” he asked.)

He said he wants to “look into” the NPV issue.

“Maybe that would be a great way to go. I think he’s making a very inter­esting point,” he said.

Jon Som­erset, a 40-year-old from Som­erset Center, said he appre­ciated the chance to meet with Shirkey one-on-one.

“Being able to talk and be open is amazing. It’s trans­parent,” he said. “I’m learning more about my state-level gov­ernment. You know more about national problems. You don’t have Fox News talking about state-level topics.”

Shirkey said the coffee hour was helpful to him as well.  

“You’re doing exactly what you should be doing,” he told a business owner he’d just exchanged ques­tions with, “but you don’t need to wait for coffee hour to do it. Never assume your elected offi­cials see what you see or hear what you hear or know what you know.”


  • Timothy Dexter

    National Popular Vote is a bad idea. While Sen. Shirkey is correct in believing there is no legal Con­sti­tu­tional argument against it, it effec­tively cedes Michigan’s influence in national pol­itics to Cal­i­fornia and New York. After the pal­pably clear influence Michigan had on the 2016 election, you would think Sen. Shirkey would know better. I am dis­ap­pointed. I hope Rep. Leutheuser does.