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11th District Congressional primary pits two Democratic members of Congress against each other

Andy Levin and Haley Stevens side by side in outdoor scene
Andy Levin for Congress / Haley Stevens for Congress
Incumbent U.S. representatives Andy Levin and Haley Stevens will run against each other in the newly drawn 11th congressional district.

Primaries for a number of important Michigan political races are coming up on August 2.

In some cases, those primaries are likely to be decisive. That’s true of Oakland County’s new 11th Congressional District, which leans heavily toward Democrats, and where the Democratic primary is a battle between two sitting members of the U.S. House.

Haley Stevens: “The first Millennial that Michigan ever sent to Congress”

Both Haley Stevens and Andy Levin were first elected to Congress in 2018, in different districts.

But due to new lines drawn by Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, they’re now squaring off in a race to represent the new 11th district.

Stevens currently represents the old 11th, which was also mostly in Oakland County. It was more of a Republican-leaning district when she was first elected. Stevens touts that fact as evidence of her broad appeal, among other things, as she described herself in an interview.

“Haley Stevens is the first millennial that Michigan ever sent to Congress,” Stevens said. “Haley Stevens is the first woman who has ever represented Michigan's 11th District.”

Before she went to Congress, Stevens played a key role in President Barack Obama’s Auto Rescue Task Force. Since her arrival in Washington, she’s continued to focus on auto and tech-related issues. That includes spearheading the effort to combat a microchip shortage by boosting domestic manufacturing.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens on the campaign trail in Royal Oak.
Haley Stevens/Facebook
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens on the campaign trail in Royal Oak.

Stevens said she brings federal money home for community projects, and also champions constituent services: “If it's a Social Security disability claim check, if it's an IRS stimulus check that got lost in the mail, if it’s veterans paperwork.”

Stevens and Levin agree on a lot, and vote in tandem much of the time. Stevens describes the idea of losing Levin as a colleague as “a major bummer.” But in what’s shaping up to be a tight race, they’ve had to emphasize their differences, and sometimes go on the attack. That’s been especially true in Levin’s case.

Andy Levin: “The progressive candidate in the race”

On a recent hot Saturday at a Farmington Hills community center, union leaders and members rallied to support Levin, a former union organizer, before heading out to canvass.

American Federation of Teachers President David Hecker warmed up the crowd. “The unions with us today, and many many more, proudly endorse for re-election the shop steward of the U.S. House of Representatives, Andy Levin!” he shouted.

Levin comes from a prominent Michigan political family. His father Sander was a longtime Congressman, and his late Uncle Carl a longtime U.S Senator. But Levin has staked out his own political territory, aligning himself with the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin at a labor rally in Farmington Hills.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin at a labor rally in Farmington Hills.

“My most important mission in Congress, and in life, is building a huge, multiracial, working class movement to transform this country for the working people of our country,” Levin told the assembled crowd, to applause.

Levin calls himself “the progressive candidate in the race,” but also someone who works well across the aisle. He says that at a time when the country faces multiple crises and democracy itself is on the line, he’s the man for the moment. He’s also accused Stevens of being an opportunist who gravitates toward “the mushy middle.”

“My opponent takes maxed-out checks from Jeff Bezos while I go down to Bessemer and organize workers at Amazon,” Levin said.

During a debate at Oakland University, Stevens snapped back at Levin’s criticism, telling the audience: “Well let me just tell you all, my votes are not bought and paid for.”

The Israel question

This race has an interesting twist, and it involves Israel. The eleventh district has a large Jewish community.

Levin is devoutly Jewish. But because of his vocal concern for Palestinian human rights and his strong alignment with progressive Democrats, Stevens has drawn the most support from Jewish groups—including the controversial American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“That endorsement was based on my belief in a strong U.S. Israel relationship,” Stevens explained. “I've also been so proud to be endorsed by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, as well as several other pro-Israel groups.”

But Levin said it’s less about Israel in particular, and more about who else AIPAC supports.

“It’s not about getting endorsed by AIPAC. It's about taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from them and then also taking money from other corporate PACs that also are supporting insurrectionist Republicans,” he said, referring to support for candidates who supported the January 6th insurrection and assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Both Stevens and Levin strongly support abortion rights. They also both support major institutional changes, including ending the Senate filibuster and possibly expanding the U.S. Supreme Court—though Levin accuses Stevens of hopping on that train only recently.

Despite their differences, there’s a lot of overlap between these two candidates. But one of them is going to have to give up their seat in Congress.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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