Sparks fly in final debate of record-setting House race
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, faced Democratic challenger Elissa Slotkin and Libertarian challenger Brian Ellison in the last of three debates Oct. 18, covering a wide range of topics.
Reaching out to voters
Some constituents have criticized Bishop for closing his Lansing office and not holding town halls throughout the district. If elected, Slotkin says she would hold a town hall every three months and reopen an office in Lansing.
“A town hall means inviting the public — anyone who wants to come — to a big event where they can ask questions, where they can engage with the person that they elected to represent them. That’s the most basic tenet of being an elected representative,” Slotkin said. “You can’t call it a town hall if you don’t invite the town to the hall.”
While he chooses not to hold what he calls “Colosseum-style town halls” in which “you completely break down civility,” Bishop said he is still accessible to his constituents.
“I have been elected and re-elected because people know that I’m open and accessible,” Bishop said. “I have spent my entire career doing whatever I can to make myself accessible to meet with people individually. I wake up in the morning early, I go to bed late at night, I speak with people all day long.”
Increasing debt holding students back from opportunity
With two universities within Michigan's 8th Congressional District, it’s no surprise that student loan debt is an issue in the race.
“The younger people today can’t pursue the American dream because they’re overwhelmed by debt,” Bishop said. “This is something that requires that we get our institutions of higher education in the room to talk about. They need to provide everybody that applies to their school with a projection about how much it’s going to cost, what they can expect with every major, if there are jobs on the outside for them when they graduate.”
Slotkin said that every loan taken out to pay for post-secondary education should have its interest rate capped at 2.5 percent, and that anybody already paying off a loan should be able to renegotiate it down to that lower rate.
“We need to talk in specifics and not just talk about getting universities together,” Slotkin said. “We need to actually have some sort of plan because the kids are drowning. They are changing their choices in life because of that debt.”
Biggest goals for Congress
Members of Congress tackle many issues every year, and both candidates have lofty goals for themselves if elected.
Bishop said it is his hope to balance the budget, noting that he was required to do so as a member of the Michigan Legislature.
“It wasn’t easy, but we lived within our means,” Bishop said.
Slotkin said she would like to tackle campaign finance reform, an issue which she and more than 100 other Congressional candidates recently signed a letter to Democratic leadership about.
“No matter what you’re working on, no matter what you care about, if our politicians are bought and sold, then they’re not going to be advocating for the issues we care about,” Slotkin said.
A rowdy crowd
During most of the debate, audience members respected the moderator’s requests to withhold any reactions. When Bishop brought up the federal deficit, however, the crowd broke out into shouts.
“You voted for it,” one attendee can be heard yelling.
“I’m going to remind you, you’re not at a campaign rally,” the moderator admonished. “We are here to have a civil discourse with candidates about issues of importance. Please refrain yourselves. If you cannot follow rules, simple rules that have been laid out to you repeatedly, honestly, ask yourselves why you cannot do that.”
Watch the full debate (begins around 1:24:00):