Candidates answer JN’s questionnaire.

Be sure to leave time on your calendar to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the 2022 midterm election. Michigan residents have a lot at stake: proposals on voting rights and reproductive freedom; governor, attorney general and secretary of state races, state and federal legislative races; and Michigan Supreme Court justice races.

The Jewish News sent a brief questionnaire to candidates for governor, attorney general, secretary of state and three high-profile congressional races and asked for responses of under 200 words per question. Below are the responses we received, unedited.

Governor’s Race

Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is facing off against Republican businesswoman Tudor Dixon. Here are Whitmer’s responses.
Dixon’s campaign did not respond to the JN’s questions.

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Gretchen Whitmer
Gretchen Whitmer

I am focused on the fundamentals: boosting our economy, investing in education, and cutting costs for families.

I supported small businesses with more than $400 million in relief and signed tax cuts for small business owners. I worked across the aisle to announce 30,000 new auto jobs, and we landed the largest investment in General Motors history, a $7 billion investment to create good-paying jobs. I plan to build on this progress to ensure the future of manufacturing is made in Michigan, by Michigan workers.

We have made the largest investment in K-12 education in Michigan history without raising taxes — tripling the number of reading coaches, increasing access to mental health care, and expanding before- and after-school programs. And I’ve put over 170,000 Michiganders on a tuition-free path to job training and higher education. I will double down to increase the number of working-age adults with a skills certificate or college degree to 60% by 2030.

And I am fighting to repeal the retirement tax and cut taxes for working families. Tough times call for tough people, and I will work with anyone to solve problems and move Michigan forward.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Michiganders have shown remarkable grit and resilience through everything the past few years have thrown our way. We have brought people together to get things done that make a difference on the kitchen table issues, improving public education, creating good-paying jobs, keeping communities safe, cutting costs for families, and strengthening our infrastructure.

Every single bill I have signed — over 900 in the last four years — has been bipartisan, and I am willing to sit down with anyone to help people.

We made Michigan’s largest ever investment in K-12 education — without raising taxes. We helped enroll 35,000 children in high-quality pre-K and brought affordable child care to 150,000 kids.

We are fixing the damn roads and have repaired over 13,000 lane miles and over 900 bridges, while supporting over 80,000 good-paying jobs.

The best part about Michigan is the people who call it home. Together, we will continue to overcome the challenges thrown our way and build a stronger Michigan.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

Republican, Democrat, or Independent — I am fighting to make life better for everyone who calls our state home. We have earned the support of Republicans and Independents from across the state, including business leaders, former lawmakers, and top staff serving under Governors Engler and Snyder. I have made civility a priority in my administration and will work with anyone who is serious about solving problems to get things done.

I still believe there is more that unites us than divides us. When we focus on the fundamentals, it is easier to see that we all want the same things. I am proud of our work to bring people together to find common ground and I will continue to work with anyone to deliver common sense solutions that put Michigan first.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

I will work with anyone and compete with everyone to grow Michigan’s economy and keep our state at the forefront of innovation. Building on a rich tradition for Michigan governors, I was proud to travel to Israel early in my administration to strengthen relationships and establish business ties with startups and mobility companies to help Michigan compete for good-paying, high-tech jobs. The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit hosted this productive trade mission in coordination with the MEDC.

I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel-based tech NGO Start Up-Nation Central that acts as a gateway to Israeli innovation to collaborate on technology solutions that have the potential to improve opportunities and quality of life for Michigan citizens. This highlights the strength of the relationship between Michigan and Israel when it comes to the automotive industry, technology, cybersecurity, and the next generation of transportation.

I look forward to continuing our work with partners overseas to help bring supply chains home, secure investments, and create jobs in Michigan.

Attorney General Race

Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel is facing Republican challenger Matthew DePerno. DePerno’s campaign did not respond to the JN’s questions.

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Dana Nessel
Dana Nessel

To protect the civil, voting and reproductive rights of all Michigan residents; to continue my work protecting Michigan consumers from corporate polluters, price-gougers, scammers, and other bad actors; and enacting tough but smart policies to fight crime and reduce gun violence.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

We have the opportunity to be a top state in the nation because we have all the right building blocks: a racially and culturally diverse population made even more vital by our welcoming attitude toward immigrants and refugees, our abundant natural resources, our esteemed universities, an international border that is one of the busiest in terms of trade commerce, and a state economy that is decreasingly reliant on a few huge industries and is embracing growth opportunities in high-tech sectors.

Our greatest challenges encompass some of what is holding Michigan back: a public education system that continues to be subject to annual funding cuts by the Legislature; the destabilizing effect the pandemic has had on the workforce and crime; an increase in political policies and philosophies that devalue democracy and the will of the people; and the open embrace of misinformation and disinformation that seems intended only to divide us.

We are also seeing the encroachment of church into matters of state and the movement to funnel taxpayer dollars away from public schools and toward private religious schools, as well as the rise of science deniers and those who want to impose their extreme ideological beliefs on birth control, abortion, vaccines, and other aspects of our lives — all of which is fundamentally un-American and contrary to the founding ideals of this country.

The nation has a full slate of serious challenges that will require working together to solve. Perhaps our biggest challenge, then, is regaining consensus reality and the spirit of bipartisan cooperation. Should we manage to come together and address these serious challenges, we can fortify America’s stature as the world’s leading democracy.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

As mentioned in the answer above, bipartisan cooperation is essential to getting anything done for the people’s benefit. I have promoted many attorneys within my department who were first appointed by Republican AGs for one reason: because they are highly skilled — their partisan beliefs, if they have them, do not affect the stellar work they do on behalf of the state and people of Michigan. So I find it alarming that we are now treating political parties like sports teams, heightening the “us vs. them” mentality that currently permeates national and state political discourse to the point that if people aren’t on “your side,” they are disregarded as enemies. If we are to overcome our more serious challenges, we must be able to find common ground and common humanity, and I’m committed to finding those opportunities for cooperative work so we can keep Michigan moving forward.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

While I’m proud to be the first Jewish person elected Attorney General in Michigan, as a state official, I don’t really have a hand in foreign policy. That being said, Jewish people must be protected from bigotry and hate crimes in order to publicly convene to support peace in Israel.

That is one reason I created the hate crimes and domestic terrorism unit within my department, the first of its kind in a state AG’s office: to help stop racially and ethnically motivated violence before it starts. That unit helped take down Michigan members of The Base, a white supremacist militia that conducts paramilitary training in preparation for starting a race war in the United States. (Its name derives from the literal translation of Al-Qaeda.) Under Michigan law, this extremist militia is a gang, and my office charged them as such — another state first.

Make no mistake, I understand better than most how the rise in antisemitic rhetoric and violence impacts the Jewish community because I’ve so often been the target of it. My office often partners with groups like the ADL in an effort to combat antisemitism and will continue to do so should I be elected to a second term.

Secretary of State

Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson is facing Republican challenger Kristina Karamo. Karamo’s campaign did not respond to the JN’s questions.

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Jocelyn Benson
Jocelyn Benson

In a second term, my top priorities will be to continue the strides we’ve made in improving service Michigan residents are experiencing at the Secretary of State’s Office. Under my administration, government works for everyone — Republican, Democrat and Independent. Further, I will continue to fight to save democracy in Michigan and across the country by ensuring that every voice is heard and every vote is counted.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Our greatest challenge is fighting the misinformation campaign that is targeting our state. Our best opportunity is to preserve democracy and serve as an example to the nation that the legacy our founding fathers left us works.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

In a second term, I believe there will be an excellent opportunity to bridge the political divide that exists in Lansing. The people of Michigan will have spoken which will set the stage for the work that needs to be done. For my part, I will continue to focus on making sure the government works for everyone whether they are Republicans, Democrats or Independents. Reducing wait times and improving efficiency isn’t a partisan issue, nor is protecting the integrity of elections and making sure every vote is counted securely and accurately.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

Michigan has a long-standing tradition of supporting the State of Israel and working with them on projects that are important to both of us. A perfect example is the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator, a nonprofit that targets six strategic focus areas that align with the strengths shared by the Michigan and Israeli ecosystems. While the Secretary of State’s Office has no direct role in that working relationship, I will continue to support Israel’s friends in Michigan so that work — and the many other relationships that exist — can continue.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES

7th Congressional District

Democratic incumbent Elissa Slotkin is facing Republican challenger Tom Barrett in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District. Michigan’s congressional district boundaries were redrawn after the 2020 census. Slotkin was first elected to represent Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in 2018. The redrawn 7th District includes Clinton, Ingham, Livingston and Shiawassee counties, most of Eaton County, parts of Oakland and Genesee Counties, and Lansing.

Elissa Slotkin

Describe your top three priorities if elected.

Elissa Slotkin
Elissa Slotkin

I’m in Congress to defend and expand the middle class. That means I’m focused on bringing down the cost of healthcare, stopping inflation, and protecting the right to choose. A lot of Michiganders are paying more for their medication than their mortgage. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act is so important. It lets Medicare negotiate with drug companies and caps drug costs for seniors and Medicare recipients. I’m also working across the aisle to pull every lever I can to lower inflation. I helped lead the bill suspending the federal gas tax, I pushed the Biden administration to open up the Strategic National Reserve and negotiate harder with foreign oil producers like Saudi Arabia, and I voted to stop companies from price gouging. Finally, the issue people talk about more than any other is choice. I’ve spoken to women in the district who are deeply religious and who would never have an abortion. But those same women say that they’ve never walked in another woman’s shoes and would never dictate to someone else what she can do with her body. That’s what Roe embodied: the freedom for women to make this choice themselves. That’s what we should protect.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Michigan’s biggest challenge is our economic security. We want to ensure that we’re building the next generation of manufacturing goods. But this is also our biggest opportunity — if we’re willing to work for it. The question we’ve got to ask ourselves is simple: Do we want to be in control of our economic security and our economic future? I want Michigan to make the next generation of cars, the next generation of batteries, and the next generation of components. I want to bring our supply chains home from places like China. That’s why the new GM factory in Lansing is so important. It’s not just the 5,000 jobs coming with the deal — it’s also the 3 jobs that each one of those brings to our small businesses and supply chains here. The same is true with the CHIPS Act. I want those jobs producing microchips in Michigan. But in order to do that, we need to compete. The choice facing our state is clear. We can either make things here, or we can let them go elsewhere. I know what side I’m on: I’m Team Michigan. Most people — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — are too. The future of our state shouldn’t be partisan.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

It’s clear to all of us that the tone and tenor of our politics have become toxic. It’s unbecoming of the country we love, the country I’ve served my whole life. Though this is a dark moment in our history, we’ve had dark moments before, and we’ve always come out the other side thanks to two things: engaged citizens and principled leaders. Engaged citizens are normal people standing up and saying, “I’m not a political person, I’m not an activist, but I’m not going to accept what’s going on.” When they do, they’re met by principled leaders who listen to them and do the right thing, even when it isn’t easy. The people of this district are engaged citizens, and I’m going to do my best to be the principled leader they deserve.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

My work with Israel started long before my time in Congress. It first began when I worked at an Israel non-profit organization in Haifa a few years after college. Later on, during my time serving as acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, I worked closely with Israeli officials at the Ministry of Defense and in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on regional security issues that would impact both our countries. My work involved protecting Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in the region, as well as expanding joint military exercises and bilateral security assistance between our two countries. In addition, I led teams that advocated for U.S. funding to support Israel’s research, development, and procurement of the Iron Dome missile defense system in 2014, as well as negotiations of a U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2016 that will provide $38 billion in missile defense and security assistance funding to Israel over 10 years. I will continue to support that aid and the relationship between Israel, our country, and our state in Congress.

Tom Barrett

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Tom Barrett
Tom Barrett

Lowering the Cost of Gas and Groceries — Inflation is now so high that it robs every working American of an entire month’s pay over the course of a year. Gas is still unaffordable for working families. I oppose the endless spending that fuels inflation, and I will fight to make America energy-independent once again to bring down the cost of fuel for your car and the gas to heat your home.

Border security — This district is over 1,500 miles from the Southern border, but we are now a border community under Joe Biden and Elissa Slotkin. Fentanyl is pouring over the border and now represents the leading cause of death in Americans age 18-45. I will vote to give agencies the tools they need to enforce our immigration laws and will also work to finally secure the border.

Crime — Lansing, the central hub of the 7th District, was recently named the 9th most dangerous city in the country according to FBI statistics. We need to fully fund our police officers so they have the tools needed to enforce the law, and we need to hold rogue prosecutors accountable who let violent criminals back on the streets.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Michigan’s greatest challenges are similar to the challenges we are seeing across the country. The reckless spending policies are driving inflation to historic highs and decimating working-class families. An unsecured southern border has led to fentanyl pouring into communities across the district. Crime has also exploded in communities across our district and state. Soft on crime prosecutors who refuse to enforce laws caused a direct spike in violent crime. In fact, Michigan is home to 4 of the most violent cities in America.

Michigan’s greatest opportunities are our people and our resources. We are home to the best workers in the country, and we need Washington to get out of the way so Michiganders can have the freedom to provide for their families and compete on a level playing field. We are also home to an abundance of natural resources. Unfortunately, Michigan residents are about to enter a cold winter with record high home heating costs thanks to Joe Biden and Elissa Slotkin’s war on American energy. I will fight to make America energy independent once again without putting our natural resources at risk.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

I have been an independent voice during my legislative career in Lansing and have voted against my own party 292 times. I have also had over 30 bipartisan pieces of legislation signed into law by both Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. I am a conservative and I don’t hide my beliefs, but I am willing to work with anyone who wants to put the people of Michigan, and America first.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

I will work with my friends in the Jewish community and other Jewish leaders in Michigan to build the relationships between Michigan and Israel while I am a member of Congress. Israel is one of our largest allies in the world.

11th District

Democratic incumbent Haley Stevens is facing Republican challenger Mark Ambrose in Michigan’s 11th District. The newly drawn 11th District unites portions of three current southeast Michigan congressional districts. The district is wholly encompassed in Oakland County and includes Pontiac, West Bloomfield, Farmington, Farmington Hills and includes communities such as Royal Oak and Ferndale in the southeastern portion of the county.

Haley Stevens

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Haley Stevens
Haley Stevens

My top three priorities and why I am running for re-election in Michigan’s 11th District are protecting a woman’s right to choose, increasing opportunities for women, girls, and minorities in STEM education to continue building a robust economy so everyone has a seat at the table, and working to end the gun violence epidemic that has unfortunately been the leading cause of death of children in this country for the last two years.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Manufacturing is the backbone of Michigan’s economy. We put the world on wheels, and we continue to innovate the automotive industry’s future from the heartland of the industrial Midwest. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused one of the worst economic downturns in Michigan’s history, and it hit our manufacturing industry hard. U.S. dependency on foreign goods caused supply chain disruptions that led to too many hard-working Michiganders being laid off. We must decrease foreign dependency on these critical goods. With that I was proud to help lead the CHIPS and Science Act through Congress and to the President’s desk which will boost our Semiconductor production and strengthen our supply chains.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

Our legislature must be focused on results and the continued delivery for families and hard-working Americans. That means coming together to meet the demands of our present time whether that’s addressing climate change, something I have tackled through my bi-partisan work in forming the Plastics Solutions Task Force to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, or as a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus where I work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on foreign affairs and tax policy. Lastly, while it is okay to disagree and have partisan differences, it’s a problem when we begin to put politics over people to the determinant of the country. I seek public office to serve, not to win political arguments and that is what I will do each and every time I put myself on the ballot.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

Among my top priorities are safety and security, both here in the U.S. and abroad. I believe that our strong and enduring partnership with the State of Israel is a cornerstone of maintaining these goals. The United States and Israel have maintained a steadfast partnership for over seven decades, bound by our shared commitment to common values. The U.S.-Israel partnership is one that must continue to thrive — and importantly, cannot become a partisan issue. I stand firm in my commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance and will continue working in Congress to support policies that strengthen our strategic alliance. The U.S./Israel partnership is a real opportunity for us to strengthen entrepreneurial efforts, such as the maturity of new technologies, particularly in the automotive sector, which is energizing and an opportunity for success.

Mark Ambrose

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Mark Ambrose
Mark Ambrose
  1. Reduce inflation and improve our economy through responsible and informed economic policies (fiscal and monetary policy working together)
  2. Security: Increase border security, reduce crime, and honor our police.
  3. Strengthen our military, so that the United States will never be challenged by our adversaries. Our military needs to be focused exclusively on fighting and winning our conflicts.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Given Michigan’s heavy reliance on the automotive industry, I believe our greatest economic challenge is ensuring that we lead the change from the internal combustion engine to the electrification of the automobile. I want Michigan companies to create a world-changing battery and other technological marvels that will make our state the capital of the automotive industry for the next century. One way I can support this in Congress is through trade policy. I will seek to create jobs for Michigan and America through fair trade. For too long, we have not had a level playing field with auto manufacturers around the world. Our vehicles have been disadvantaged with punitive tariffs on our vehicles and subsidies by foreign governments of their domestic manufacturers.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

George Stephanopoulos was a professor of mine in the late 90s at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. At that time, he lamented the escalating partisanship that he had witnessed in Washington. As we are all aware, the extremism and vilification of the other side has grown worse in the last two decades. We have watched in horror as each party has dismissed the other as evil or unpatriotic, rather than trying to understand a different perspective and reach common ground. In today’s Washington, I have a difficult time identifying centrists like Sam Nunn, Richard Lugar, and Tip O’Neill. I would commit to reset our political discourse and be one of those voices who always seeks to understand the other side’s perspective.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

When my wife and I traveled to Jerusalem in 2014, the strong ties between Michigan and Israel were immediately apparent. The (William) Davidson Center and Archaeological Park is close to the markers honoring the Hermelin family for their philanthropy in restoring areas of the ancient wall near the Temple Mount. The Davidsons and the Hermelins are iconic Jewish families from the Detroit Area. If the voters of the 11th District give me the honor of serving in Congress, I will do all that I can to enhance those ties. The United States must always stand alongside a democracy that protects minorities and gives them representation within the legislature. Israel is precisely that type of an ally, a parliamentary democracy with Israeli Arabs serving in the Knesset. Israel sets an example of tolerance within a region of the world that is not known for that quality. In Congress, I would advocate expanding on the success of the Abraham accords that normalized relations between Israel and several of its Arab neighbors. Normalized relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel should be the goal on which our State Department is relentlessly focused.

12th District

District 13 Democratic incumbent Rashida Tlaib is facing Republican Steven Elliott in the 12th District. Michigan lost a congressional seat due to redistricting and Tlaib chose to run in the new 12th District, which links Detroit’s west side with western Wayne County communities such as Livonia, Westland, Redford, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, as well as Oakland County’s Southfield.  

Rashida Tlaib

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib

Economic Justice — It should not be this hard for people to thrive in our country. I’ve heard from residents who are struggling to make ends meet while corporations make record profits. I will continue to fight for higher wages, better jobs, workplace rights and protections. I will also continue to fight for policies that would reduce poverty, especially among children.

Environmental Justice — We have a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and grow food in clean soil. I have been a leader when it comes to environmental justice in Congress, and I will continue to take on this critical work.

Racial Justice — From housing to voting rights and public safety — racial justice is essential for our country to move forward in an equitable way that lifts everyone up. I’ve introduced legislation that would give residents a key tool to fight discrimination in policies, schools, and in the workplace. I’ve authored legislation that would make it easier to vote, and I’ve introduced legislation to end discrimination in auto insurance.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Michigan’s best opportunities will always be within the people. We have such diverse and rich culture throughout the state of Michigan. We are truly stronger together and have achieved so much when we’ve worked together. We continue to put the world on wheels, we’ve birthed and contributed greatly to movements such as the civil rights and labor rights movements. This is truly a special place. As we move forward, we must center people and their needs, and work to address the systemic issues we continue to see. As a Congressmember, I’m going to continue to push transformative legislation that will improve the quality of life for residents. It truly should not be this hard for people to thrive.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

I would continue to operate from a place of love and understanding that puts people first when it comes to the issues we are facing. There are currently very dangerous attempts to push an agenda that pits communities against each other and seeks to other people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, and so much more. We must push back against that by uplifting a person’s humanity and dignity.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

As a born and raised Detroiter, I’ve had the honor of being brought up and participating in movements that are centered around human rights and equality for all. No matter if it’s in Michigan, Israel or any other place on this planet, I will uplift the need for every single person to live with freedom, dignity and equal rights.

Steven Elliott

Describe your top three priorities if elected?

Steven Elliott
Steven Elliott

I want to make our streets safer, our schools better and our taxes lower.

What are Michigan’s greatest challenges and best opportunities?

Michigan’s greatest challenges will be rebuilding our once great manufacturing and industrial base, which will require a low tax burden and less regulations. We must also focus on improving our schools and reducing crime to attract businesses from around the country to choose Michigan over other states. Our best opportunity lies in our strategic central location, logistics, hard-working people, and history as a manufacturing hub.

How will you work to close the political divide that seems to dominate much of the political agenda?

The first step to closing the political divide is to remove radical members of Congress like Rashida Tlaib. Rashida is a self-proclaimed Socialist aligned with the Marxist DSA Democratic Socialists of America, an organization which has praised Communist dictators and even wishes Karl Marx “happy birthday” on their social media. I’ll work to promote common sense solutions to issues, not create more problems with an extremist agenda.

How might you work to enhance the long and rich history between the State of Michigan and the State of Israel?

Unlike my opponent, Rashida Tlaib, I respect Israel and the Jewish people. I would welcome opportunities to expand trade and mutual business ventures between Michigan and Israel — as both locations are known for innovation and a talented workforce.

 

 

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