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The candidates for Michigan’s US Senate seat show a sharp contrast on abortion and guns

Contenders for Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s open seat diverge on whether tax cuts for the rich are a good idea.

By Josh Israel - September 25, 2023
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Elissa Slotkin
Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) host a press conference introducing legislation that would require federal spending on gun violence research. The two lawmakers cited the fact that gun violence is the leading cause of death of children under 18 years old as reason for the urgent need to fund research. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via AP)

With the Democratic caucus holding a narrow 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate, the race for retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s open seat in 2024 could determine the nation’s policy direction.

While both parties have crowded primaries, the top Democratic and top Republican contenders differ sharply on reproductive rights, gun safety, and how much the wealthiest Americans should pay in taxes.

The Cook Political Report rates the Michigan race competitive and leaning Democratic. Early polling in the race shows U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin ahead in both the Democratic primary and in hypothetical general election matchups.

The Democrats

Slotkin announced her candidacy in February. Over her three terms in the House, she has consistently backed reproductive rights, earning 100% ratings from Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America). Her campaign site notes that she “has supported no-brainer gun safety measures to keep our communities safe, including safe storage of firearms, universal background checks, red flag laws, and the assault weapons ban.” Slotkin also backed the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which funded deficit reduction, health care, and clean energy investments by raising taxes for individuals earning more than $400,000 annually.

Nasser Beydoun, a business executive and civil rights activist, says on his campaign site that he is a champion of “individual freedoms.” In an email, he told the American Independent Foundation: “We must produce sensible gun legislation that upholds the Second Amendment but prevents weapons of war from being used to massacre our families. Anything else is a dangerous misstep that we can’t afford.” On abortion, he noted Michigan’s 2022 passage of state constitutional protections for reproductive rights and promised, “When elected to the Senate, I will do everything in my power to make those same rights available for all women in this country once again.” Beydoun also said, “I will always work to ensure that those with the most pay their fair share like the rest of us.”

Hill Harper, an actor, announced his Senate candidacy in July. His campaign page says he “has always fought for a woman’s right to choose — and he plans on taking that fight straight to Washington. Now more than ever, we must protect and expand women’s reproductive rights.” It also indicates his support for ending the filibuster to stop the Republican minority from blocking abortion rights and gun safety legislation. His campaign did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation inquiry about his views on tax policy.

Former state Rep. Leslie Love joined the race in May. Her campaign page says she is a “staunch supporter of civil rights and women’s rights she sponsored legislation on pay equity, reproductive choice, and women in the skilled trades.” In an email, Love said: “I abhor gun violence and support responsible gun ownership and sensible gun legislation that, for example, requires firearm safety education certification before one can purchase a firearm.” She also noted her opposition to President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which slashed tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and added a projected $1.9 trillion to the nation’s budget deficit between 2018 and 2028.

Michigan State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh declared her candidacy in May. Her campaign site does not have an issues page, but she told the Detroit News she backs abortion rights and tweeted in August, ”GUN 👏🏾 VIOLENCE 👏🏾 IS 👏🏾 A 👏🏾PUBLIC 👏🏾 HEALTH 👏🏾CRISIS. From Jacksonville to East Lansing to Detroit, we need URGENT reform that includes a federal BAN on assault rifles.” Her campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about tax policy.

Attorney Zack Burns announced his candidacy in April. At the time, his campaign website noted his support for abortion rights and gun violence legislation. His page now says “website expired,” and it is unclear if his campaign remains active. Burns’ campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about his status and positions.

Attorney Jacquise Purifoy also reportedly filed to run in January but has no apparent online campaign presence and did not immediately respond to an inquiry about her positions.

The Republicans

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers joined the race on Sept. 6. While his campaign site does not include an issues page, over 14 years in the House, he repeatedly backed national abortion bans and routinely earned 0% ratings from Reproductive Freedom for All. He earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association, worked to weaken existing gun laws, and in March bashed new state gun safety laws as “exactly the wors[t] way to make a law in the United States of America.” He backed 2001 and 2003 tax laws that slashed tax rates for wealthy Americans and lauded Trump’s 2017 tax law as a “core GOP” policy.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who in 2022 was kicked off the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot over fraudulent nominating petition signatures, is reportedly planning to launch a campaign for Senate. At a September 2021 campaign event, he pledged he would stop any effort to overturn a 1931 statewide abortion ban, saying, “I will do whatever I can — I’m pro-life.” His 2021 campaign site noted, “Chief Craig unapologetically supports the Second Amendment and is proud to be featured on the cover of NRA magazine twice,” and, “Chief James Craig is unapologetically pro-life and oppose[s] efforts to provide abortion-on-demand.” His campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about tax policy.

Business executive Michael Hoover announced his candidacy in May. His campaign priorities page notes that he would “uphold the right of Michiganders to protect and defend ourselves and preserve their 2nd Amendment rights to the fullest extent.” He told MLive in May that he believes abortion should be left up to the states. In an email to the American Independent Foundation, he reiterated his strong opposition to gun safety laws and said, “We must protect as many lives as possible and get Democrats to agree that full term abortions are just wrong.” Asked about Trump’s tax cuts, he wrote, “There is clearly a choice for 2024 – Biden and the Left – Taking taxpayers dollars and handing it over to their favorite multibillion dollar corporations or leaving the money in the hands of small business owners where the real people do the real work for the American economy.“

Former U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer has not officially announced his candidacy but said in August that he had formed an exploratory committee. In his 2020 House campaign, he ran as “100% pro-life,” touted Trump’s 2017 tax law, and said, “I proudly support the Second Amendment and exercise my own right to keep and bear arms, and I will strongly defend this right against any infringement.” Over his single term in Congress, he received an A rating from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Meijer was one of 14 House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan gun safety law in 2022. He co-sponsored a 2022 bill that would have made the Trump tax law permanent.

Michigan State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder declared her candidacy in February. Her campaign site includes no positions on abortion, guns, or tax policy, but she reportedly opposed reproductive rights during her unsuccessful 2020 House campaign. In a May 2023 interview with CBS News Detroit, she acknowledged that Michiganders spoke “very decisively” in the 2022 referendum on a constitutional amendment to protect reproductive rights, but said, “I want to walk alongside moms and parents as they choose life.” In February, she objected to gun control laws and said of firearms, “Students need to be trained not to think that they are so scary.” Her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Allen Park City Attorney Alexandria Taylor announced her campaign in June. Her campaign site contains no positions on guns, abortion, or taxes, and her campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about her views.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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