U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens is making economic recovery a central theme in her campaign to be the first Democrat ever reelected to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.
Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, said the 11th District has the largest concentration of auto suppliers in the country, packed into suburban communities in Wayne and Oakland counties. Stevens flipped the traditionally Republican-voting district two years after President Donald Trump carried it with a similar focus on bringing back Michigan’s manufacturing industry.
“I’m in the party of jobs,” Stevens said. “I want to make sure everyone has access to a good-paying job that values and honors their work. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Republicans are eager to reclaim the 11th District. Voters will select Stevens’ challenger from a pool of five candidates in the Aug. 4 GOP primary — Frank Acosta, former U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, Erik Esshaki, Carmelita Greco and Whittney Williams.
Related: Five Republicans compete to take back congressional swing district from Haley Stevens
Stevens emerged victorious from her own five-way primary in 2018 and went on to win in the general election by nearly 7 percentage points. She is unchallenged in the Democratic primary and holds a major cash advantage over the five Republicans seeking to challenge her, raising $3.9 million since the start of her campaign.
Before joining Congress, Stevens served as chief of staff on a task force President Barack Obama established to oversee the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors. Stevens said she’s kept a close relationship with automakers and other manufacturing businesses, arranging regular site visits to facilities throughout the district.
A third of Michigan’s manufacturing jobs are concentrated in counties inside or adjacent to the 11th District.
Stevens said keeping manufacturing businesses in her district on track after the COVID-19 pandemic required a complete shutdown is her top priority. More than 623,700 Michiganders were employed in manufacturing jobs in February, but many of those workers were temporarily laid off under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “stay-at-home” order in March.
Michigan’s manufacturers were among the first companies allowed to return to work. An estimated 175,000 manufacturing jobs were shed between March and April, but employment slowly recovered since Whitmer authorized manufacturers to reopen May 11.
Last year was rocky for Michigan manufacturing even before the coronavirus was confirmed to be proliferating in Michigan, Stevens said.
Stevens said the spread of COVID-19 in other countries caused supply chain disruption at the tail end of 2019. The industry also felt the negative effects of “national security” tariffs on steel and aluminum, General Motors employees went on the longest strike in history and the U.S. manufacturing sector fell into the deepest slump in more than a decade.
However, Stevens also pointed to the signing of a new North American free trade agreement as one of the best moves Congress made for Michigan’s 11th District. Stevens had pushed House Democrats to vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which eventually passed with bipartisan support.
Much like the president, Stevens said she’s working to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign goods.
“Now the work becomes how do we avoid further supply chain disruptions in the future and how do we relocalize, reinvest, continue to grow manufacturing jobs here in the United States, particularly in Michigan,” Stevens said. “We’ve got the workforce for it, we’ve got the facility square footage space for it. We have an industrial ecosystem hotbed for this.”
Stevens is chair of the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology and co-founder of Congressional Women in STEM Caucus. Her legislative achievements include two bipartisan bills directing federal funding to manufacturing research and developing science, math and technology opportunities for elementary students and girls.
The first-term congresswoman said she’s also focused on improving access to affordable health care, funding local infrastructure investments, cleaning up PFAS contamination and ensuring schools are fully funded for the fall academic year.
Meanwhile, Stevens’ Republican challengers argue she is not as bipartisan as the congresswoman presents herself. Republicans said Stevens campaigned as a moderate but hasn’t acted as once since being elected.
“Haley Stevens is an unhinged, radical liberal who regularly screams deranged rants on the House floor or at her constituents,” said Carly Atchison, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Since coming to Congress she has been nothing but a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi’s partisan agenda, even if that means delaying (Paycheck Protection Program) loans for small businesses. Stevens is unfit to serve Michigan in Congress and voters will kick her out in November.”
Stevens had expressed concerns that the Paycheck Protection Program wasn’t accessible for small businesses. She ultimately voted in favor of the program, which secured federal aid for 121,000 businesses and protected 130,000 jobs in Stevens’ district.
“I’m entirely fired up about what’s before us,” Stevens said. “Our businesses don’t want to stop, and obviously we had to make some adjustments while we were managing this pandemic, but we’re going to come back and we’re going to come back even stronger. It’s going to be a boon and a benefit for Michigan.”
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