State Senate race: Sylvia Santana vows to fight for lower auto insurance rates


DEARBORN – The Yemeni American News

State Representative Sylvia Santana, who is running for the State Senate, said she has been addressing the disparities that the region’s residents face, including in car insurance rates and job opportunities.
Santana, who was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2016, said she also wants to empower the next generation of leadership within the Democratic Party to push “our Progressive agenda.”
In an interview with the Yemeni American News, Santana said she has tried diligently to engage all of her constituents.
“We have a change in Warrendale Community where we see more Arab and Muslim families in our district and I think it’s very important to make sure they’re a part of the neighborhood association so that’s how I reached out to individuals,” Santana said.
Santana, who represents parts of Dearborn and Detroit, said she invited “right-wing Christian Republicans” from Lansing to visit the Arab community in Detroit and Dearborn.
In a joint effort with her Democratic colleague Abdullah Hammoud, Santana had lawmakers meet with the mayors of Detroit and Dearborn, visit the Arab American National Museum and eat at Arabic restaurants along Warren Avenue.
“I want to make sure that we get past some of those barriers that they may have in their heads about the Arab community and Muslim community,” Santana said.
“I want to make sure that my colleagues understand who this community represents and who we are in this community.”
Santana, who succeeded her husband at the Legislature in 2016 after he reached his term limits, added that she entered the realm of politics after working for 15 years in finance to “fill the gap” of inequality that underprivileged people face.
“And so as I visited around the community I saw where there was some disparities,” Santana said.
“You didn’t see businesses along the commercial Corridor that were hiring individuals from the local community and so that was the reason I went to Lansing. And I said I want to make sure that I can help with some of these disparities that people have with transportation, getting access to job opportunities right in their local community and support the small business owners to grow their businesses capacity-wise so that they could hire local individuals.”
Santana is now is looking to fill the seat of State Senator Morris Hood III, a Democrat who reached his term limit in the Legislature. It’s a safe Democratic seat that will likely be decided in the August 7th primary.
The district includes Dearborn, Melvindale and parts of Detroit.
“There is a significant amount of poverty in the city that we have to deal with,” Santana said.
“I grew up in poverty so I know what it looks like and I live in Detroit as well and I understand some of the disparities that people have when it comes to the job opportunities when it comes to transportation and infrastructure issues.”
Detroit and Dearborn both suffer from astronomical auto insurance prices. The issue is especially prevalent in the Motor City, where almost 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The high rates with low income and absence of reliable public transport limit residents’ mobility and access to the job market.
“As I knocked on doors as a state representative I found that people were concerned about their auto insurance rates and so that became the conversation as a state representative that I was having in my community,” she told YAN.
Advocates have accused insurance companies of “redlining” – the racially charged practice of systematically refusing services to residents in high risk areas.
Santana had backed a bill that would lower prices by allowing companies to put reasonable limits on medical coverage, which is now uncapped. The measure, which was supported by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, failed to pass.
Santana vowed to continue to fight for a solution to the issue if elected to the Senate.
“Of course you want to change the redlining piece of auto insurance that’s hurting urban communities, so that’s something that we need to work on,” Santana told YAN. She added that non-driving factors like credit score and education level should not be considered to determine rates.
Santana said public safety is a priority for her, and one way to address it from the Legislature is to make sure that police officers and firefighters get adequate pay and benefits, including health insurance.
On education, Santana said: “I know that we spend money on education but we’re not spending enough money to educate our children in this state and we want to make sure that children are set up for success, making sure that they’re prepared for the jobs of tomorrow – whether that be in STEM, technology, we want to make sure that they’re set up for the industries to come.”