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Meet the candidates: U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin discusses the issues facing Michigan in November

October 10, 2022
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin —
Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Each week when U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin heads to Washington, D.C. to vote in Congress, her colleagues ask what people are thinking in Michigan. They’re interested in how Michiganders view everything from issues on the news to the price of the gas in their tanks.

“In general, Michigan as a swing state is often considered a canary in the coal mine on national trends,” Slotkin said.

The prescience of her constituents isn’t something Slotkin takes lightly, she said.

Michigan’s place in national politics for the last several years has been one of special importance. A former solidly Democratic state that voted for Trump in 2016, then Biden in 2020, pundits have kept a close eye on the state as a decider of not just presidents, but national policy. Slotkin said she’s aware of the weight of that influence as Election Day draws near. 

“I think what's on the line is how we approach the economy,” she said. “It's how we approach things like lowering our bills, like on prescription drugs and health care. It's our approach to things like student aid.”

Slotkin is running for re-election in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, after her former 8th District seat was redrawn in the 2020 redistricting of the state. Her new district contains two of the counties represented in the old one, Ingham and Livingston, and adds Clinton, Shiawassee and most of Eaton county as well as small portions of Oakland and Genesee counties. 

This section of mid-Michigan has the potential to set the policy that all of America lives by for the next several years. The race for MI-07 has been labeled one of the most critical congressional battles in the nation and has become the most expensive to boot, cashing in at around $20 million in campaign spending.

Slotkin is opposed by Republican State Sen. Tom Barrett, who she faced in a debate on Sept. 6. 

Slotkin said that her opponent’s right-wing views aren’t a good fit for the district.

“Whether you're Democrat, Republican or an Independent, I think the average Michigander just wants decent leadership, who's not ideological, who's not extreme,” Slotkin said.

Barrett caused controversy during the candidates’ debate last week when he announced his opposition to same-sex marriage. Slotkin said that, similarly to the issue of abortion rights, Barrett’s stance is too polarizing.

Barrett has indicated that he’s anti-abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. Slotkin said that in an election cycle where abortion is on the ballot as much as any candidate’s name, her position as a pro-choice option makes all the difference. 

“It wasn't wasn't a topic that used to come up,” Slotkin said. “With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I think we have a choice to make in November on our own ballot. But if the house flips, the Republicans have made very plain that they will try to impose a federal ban on abortion.”

Abortion has proven to be a top-priority issue for Michigan voters, especially on college campuses. Slotkin’s district contains multiple universities, including Michigan State University, and she said that the role of college students in an election has never been more critical.

“I really think that Michigan State students have the opportunity to decide this election, full stop,” Slotkin said.

Beyond the more partisan issues, Slotkin wants voters to know that she’s equipped to continue handling national security and foreign affairs with a steady hand – she currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. She said her background in the CIA and Department of Defense has given her the skill set to make clear decisions about complex issues.

Slotkin said that even when people might not be aware of it, international relations impact their everyday lives in very tangible ways.

“I think that people understand whether it's the price of gas or the future of democracies in Europe, that international affairs kind of comes to our shores, whether we want it to or not,” Slotkin said.

A bit closer to home, redistricting has proven to be a breeding ground for speculation on candidates’ personal lives. Slotkin was able to live on her family’s farm in Holly prior to this election cycle, but due to it being drawn out of the 7th District, she and her husband are now renting in the Lansing area. 

“I'm renting a condo,” Slotkin said. “Like everyone else who rents in this town, I have a landlord, I pay fair market rent.”

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Slotkin said that her living situation has been weaponized by her opponent’s campaign to sow doubts about her transparency towards voters, as insinuations that she’s cheating on her husband with her landlord, a campaign donor of hers, have begun to surface on social media and in some news outlets. 

“It's sadly the oldest trick in the book when you're running against a woman,” Slotkin said. “And I mean, I think they're trying to really create this ambiguity that somehow I could be sleeping with another man. And that is obviously just a below the belt attack.”

The owner of the property, who has made small-dollar donations totaling $1,850 to Slotkin’s campaign, signed a September affidavit asserting that he has not lived at the condo since prior to when Slotkin’s lease began. Slotkin said that in spite of her long career in public service, this is the first time she’s experienced this type of sexism from an opponent. 

“I have only worked in male dominated fields,” Slotkin said. “I was a CIA officer, I worked at the Pentagon, I did three tours with the CIA in Iraq. So I'm very used to working as the only woman in a big shop, let's say, in Baghdad.”

Regardless of the challenges, Slotkin’s campaign is soldiering on. Polling done in September indicated that Slotkin is maintaining a moderate lead over Barrett and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report showed that the district could be anyone’s game. By all accounts, the race will be a nail-biter come November 8th and it’s been difficult to miss the effort being put into advertising by both campaigns.

Slotkin said she’s aware of the volume of attack ads being run against her on streaming platforms, and tries to maintain a sense of normalcy in spite of the criticism. 

“I do have Hulu, except I think I pay for the non-ad one,” Slotkin said. “But my dad's gonna shoot the TV. I mean, he can't watch a show.”

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