After working for the CIA and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon, Elissa Slotkin is tackling a new challenge — Congress.
Slotkin is running for the Eighth District, which includes Lansing, East Lansing and Rochester Hills. She is looking to unseat the Republican incumbent Mike Bishop.
In May 2017, Slotkin watched the Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives hold a celebratory ceremony at the White House following their vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, without a replacement.
“Something just broke in me and I said, ‘No, you do not get to do this,’” Slotkin said.
The attempted repeal cemented her desire to run for Congress, Slotkin said.
“For me, health care is really personal,” Slotkin said. “My mom died in 2011 of ovarian cancer, and when she was diagnosed she had let her healthcare lapse.”
Slotkin said she and her brother were prepared to file bankruptcy for her mother, but a loophole meant they were able to have the health insurance reinstated.
While the attempt at repealing ACA was the final push Slotkin said she needed to run, she said she has other credentials that make her qualified.
She spent 14 years at the CIA working as a Middle East analyst and served three tours of Iraq alongside the military. Then, she worked at the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon.
“I’m tested, tested in a crisis, in a combat zone, in a male-dominated environment and I know at the end of the day, I know how to get things done,” Slotkin said. “Knowing how to kick ass in the job is important.”
While Slotkin’s website features red and blue colors, she said she is running as Democrat.
“I am a midwestern Democrat, which I believe means practical, reasonable, willing to work across the aisle and focused on the economy and the middle class, saving the middle class,” Slotkin said.
She has a bipartisan background from her time working in national security.
“I worked for Republican administrations and Democratic administrations,” Slotkin said. “I worked for President Bush and President Obama. I had Democratic bosses and Republican bosses. I believe in order to actually get things done, we do need to buckle down and often reach across the aisle. That doesn’t mean I won’t call a spade a spade when there’s something that’s just fundamentally counter to our American values.”
International relations and experience architecture senior Nina Capuzzi knew Slotkin before she decided to run for Congress, and while Capuzzi said she doesn't usually get involved in political campaigns, she wanted to support Slotkin.
"Elissa cares about students and cares about issues that matter to us," Capuzzi. "I think that she will be a leader for the campus, and for representation for us in Congress especially."
The values Slotkin holds represent what Capuzzi said she wants for a person in office.
Slotkin bills herself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative. She said she wants to protect the rights of people while lowering the national debt.
“I am extremely clear on where I stand on the issue of gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, and I will go to the grave on those issues,” Slotkin said. “I believe in treating our federal budget like we treat our home budget. We don’t spend out of control and rack up huge debt and pass it onto our kids without understanding how we’re going to pay for it, and I expect the same of the federal government.”
While growing up, Slotkin said her family owned guns, and in Iraq she carried a Glock and an M4, so she believes in the Second Amendment, with caveats.
“We are believers in the Second Amendment. That said, I believe that it is clear we need additional comprehensive background checks,” Slotkin said. “Closing all the loopholes so you can’t avoid a background check … and making sure we are laser focused so that domestic abusers, terrorists on the terrorist watch list and mentally ill people cannot get them.”
Increasing state and federal assistance for college students is also important, Slotkin said.
Pell Grants and state funding to public universities need to increase, because it will make it easier for students to pay for college, she said.
Slotkin wants interest rates for student loans need to be capped at a low number to make it easier to pay off loans.
“The industry of student loans should not be treated like any other loan later in your life," Slotkin said. "Education is fundamental to getting ahead in our society.”
"I grew up in an environment surrounded by the military, and in the military a strong leader needs to understand when their leadership is distracting from the mission of the organization," Slotkin said. "For instance, Lou Anna Simon. I met with her, but at the end of the day, her leadership was distracting the institution that she loved from moving forward, so I think it was the right thing for her to resign. Personally, I think the same thing of the Board (of Trustees). The university and the community here needs to start looking forward and starting the healing process.”
Slotkin said she believes she is part of a new generation of leaders, as people are looking for something different because the tenor of politics for the past two years is "fundamentally unbecoming of the country."
“I am 41 right now. I think people are looking for a new generation of leaders, and a new generation typically means younger," Slotkin said. "I have a lot of respect for senior leaders. I was just endorsed by Joe Biden. I respect him quite a bit, but what I think people are screaming out for is something new, something different and we have to hear that. I would be extremely proud to be a young female elected to Congress.”