MSU professor Chris Smith running for U.S. House of Reps
The 2016 presidential election made Chris Smith examine himself to see what more he could for his country, he said.
He decided to run for District 8 in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes East Lansing, Lansing and Rochester Hills.
“Given that I have spent 30 years teaching public policy and law — I have a law degree and Ph.D. in political science,” Smith said. “I felt as if this is what I was ready to do, this was a need.”
Smith is an MSU professor in the School of Criminal Justice.
He is on an unpaid leave of absence for 2018 to campaign for the Aug. 7 primary.
Elissa Slotkin is the only other person filed to run as a Democrat in District 8, which Smith said is a good thing.
“There is a developing list of policy issues where I can say I’m the only candidate who advocates Medicare for all, who advocates ending sales of military style rifles, who advocates no pipelines under the Great Lakes,” Smith said. “We are distinctly different.”
The policy differences Smith and Slotkin have are a good thing because it gives voters an easier decision to make, he said.
While Smith said everything is going wrong in Washington D.C. with President Donald Trump and “his enablers,” there are a few key issues that stick out.
“I think we should have universal, single- payer healthcare,” Smith said. “I’m very concerned about what’s happened with environmental protection, instead of having an Environmental Protection Agency, we have a pollution-enabling, oil company-profit maximizing agency. I’m very concerned about unfair taxation. I’m very concerned about Betsy DeVos being in charge of public education … and I’ve always been very concerned about gun control.”
Livingston County campaign coordinator Muriel Kaier said she chose to support Smith because he won’t pander to voters — instead, he’ll stick to his beliefs.
“Everything he believes in, I believe in,” Kaier said.
The Affordable Care Act was a decent start, but Medicare for all is the end goal for healthcare, Smith said.
He said he is aware of the narrow definition of the Second Amendment, according to the Supreme Court, because he has taught and written about it for years.
In 2008, the Supreme Court said handguns can be kept in houses and gun ownership can be regulated because the right to bear arms is not an unlimited right.
“Everything else is a policy decision as of now because the Supreme Court has not taken cases to change that definition,” Smith said. “They’ve expanded that definition … but it’s up to us to make decisions about the kinds of weapons and carrying and all that sort of stuff.”
Smith said he wants background checks at all gun sales, testing and licensing, annual registration and liability insurance for all gun owners.
“We need increased funding for mental health diagnosis and treatment, unrelated to guns, but there’s a carryover potential benefit,” Smith said.
Smith said he does not want to ban hunting rifles and he doesn’t think the Supreme Court will ever rule on it because no state will ever ban them.
Free community college and technical training and lowering student debt is something Smith said he wants to do if he is elected.
One of the ways to reduce student debt is to offer the first two years of college free, Smith said.
“I don’t think that’s the only thing we need to do with student loans,” Smith said. “We need to take it away from predatory, profit seeking collectors and people who give loans at varying rates.”
The government needs to regulate the loans and also offer more loan forgiveness for public service, Smith said.
As MSU navigates the fallout from ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, the Board of Trustees has not given people a reason to trust it, Smith said.
“Honestly, John Engler is a terrible choice … the message it sends to the world, unfortunately, is, ‘we’re all about protecting MSU’ and that’s not what we should be doing right now. We need outsiders with a fresh take on this," Smith said.
Every single person on the Board of Trustees might not be terrible, but there have been so many missteps that affected their credibility to handle the problems MSU is facing that they all need to go, Smith said.
“We need a new group, clean slate with prospective on the significance of this harm,” Smith said.
Slotkin might have more money for campaigning, but Smith said he is running a grassroots campaign because voters having a choice is important.
“There’s a lot of Democrats, they want a choice,” Smith said. “They don’t want to feel as if people in Washington chose their candidate for them.”
Smith said family is extremely important to him and he has been married to his wife for almost 34 years. They have two adult children and a new grandchild.
His daughter married the son of Cambodian immigrants, which shaped his view on immigration.
“That shapes my view, that all this Trump hostility to immigrants and demonizing people and what he slanderously says about third-world countries doesn’t reflect what we’re all about,” Smith said.
Smith’s family has impacted his life views in other ways, he said.
“We have a marriage that has not always been welcomed by all of our fellow Americans since I’m white and she’s African-American,” Smith said.
Having a mixed family is another reason Kaier said she is working for Smith because he can understand what life is like from different stances.
"His family is like a poster for the United Nations, and he doesn't even have to talk about race, minority or immigrants because people are looking at his family, and they're looking at his relationships in the community and know where his heart his," adviser Darlene Domanik said.
Smith said he personally responds to every email he receives. He can be reached through his contact page here.
After the August primary, either Smith or Slotkin will face incumbent Mike Bishop in the November election.