ALLEGAN — Nevin Cooper-Keel, a small business owner and former township supervisor, will run in the Republican primary for Michigan House District 80 this August.


The 80th District is currently represented by Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township.


Cooper-Keel said he feels Michigander’s constitutional rights are being violated due to restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.


“We have a constitution, we have constitutional rights; right now those rights are being violated,” he told The Sentinel. “What did it take for them to begin violating our rights and continue to?


“We’ve crashed our economy. We have unprecedented numbers of unemployment. It’s gone up by millions each week.”


Michigan has been under some form of a shutdown order since March 24, like many other states aiming to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Close to 26.5 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment benefits.


Cooper-Keel, who owns Atwater Bail Bonds in Allegan, believes the state Legislature did not do enough to fight the restrictions.


“The politicians are afraid to admit they overreacted and they're trying to find some way to weasel out of this without taking blame for crashing our economy and violating our rights for no reason,” he said.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used executive powers to issue the stay-home orders, granted to her under a state of emergency. Since the start of the outbreak in Michigan, over 3,400 people in the state have died from COVID-19.


On April 7, the Legislature voted to extend the state of emergency to April 30, Whitmer has asked the Legislature to extend it further into May still.


Cooper-Keel believes that Legislature shouldn’t meet Whitmer’s requests.


“Weakness of our political class, they don’t want to face any responsibility,” he said. They feel like they have to string this out to make it seem like a bigger emergency than it was. That was enough to make me say ‘what is going on in our legislature?’”


Aside from concerns over the Legislature’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper-Keel said he believes the government could run more efficiently.


“The government, in pretty much anything, is less efficient than the private sector,” he said. “The private sector tends to do things more effectively because they have a profit motivation. We, the people, want our tax dollars to be more effective, though.


“Restraining the government to what its purpose is, making it more efficient — that would be my goal.”


Cooper-Keel said during his time as Monterrey Township supervisor from 2012 to 2016, he prioritized running a tight budget and only spending on projects that were necessary.


“I like to save money as much as possible,” he said. “If we are going to spend it, let’s spend it something that matters.”


Whiteford has represented the 80th District since 2016. She announced her intention to run for a third term in February.


The Michigan statewide primary is on Aug. 4.


— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at alobo@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @arpanlobo.