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Meet 8th District Democratic candidate Dan Kildee

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan's 8th Congressional District is considered a "toss-up" in this year's midterm election, largely due to recently redrawn redistricting maps. There's been a Kildee representing this part of Michigan since 1977, starting with Dale Kildee. Dan Kildee succeeded his uncle in 2013. But with the new lines, the race isn't as clear cut as it might have been in previous years. Reporter Steve Carmody spoke with the candidates running in the district, including Democratic candidate and incumbent Dan Kildee. Get to know more about him in the interview below.

Let's talk about the redistricting. Do you have any concerns that the way this district has been drawn up, it could threaten your ability to win reelection?

Yeah, I mean, I take every term on its own. No one has any entitlement to a seat in Congress, so I have to go out and earn it every two years. I'm a person distinct from my predecessor, despite our family connections and I'm different in a lot of ways. But the voters choose their representatives. So I'm pretty philosophical about it in the sense that this district makes sense as a district. Whether the people choose me to be their voice is up to them. It's more challenging from a partisan standpoint, but the district makes sense, and I just think that ought to be the starting point. The last thing any of us should ever want is for district lines to be drawn because of a person who happens to hold an office. To be fair, I don't think the Reapportionment Commission could have come up with a more logical map for this area than what they did. I mean, it just makes sense. These four communities are connected to one another Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. They've been talked about in the same breath for a long, long time. They each have their differences, their distinctions between one another, but there is a social, a community, an economic, a geographic connection between these places that make sense. 6.9]

What's the most important issue this district is facing?

I think there's a big question right now about women's reproductive health. That was not expected to be an issue a year ago, but it sure has become one recently. When I, for example, came to an event in Midland expecting to see a few dozen die hard activists at the courthouse and saw what looked like a thousand people raising their voices to protect the rights of women, to make decisions about their own health care for themselves, I was moved to the point where I thought, okay, this could be a really significant issue. I think there's concern about women's health care and reproductive rights.

Clearly, there's always concerns about the economy. Most of my effort, and thankfully we had some results recently, is focused on how do we support the manufacturing and agricultural economy of this area? That's a big issue. An overarching or maybe underlying issue is the threat to democracy, which I think a lot of people take seriously. So these are the issues that are on people's minds and the ones I hear about most.

Let's stick with abortion for a moment. The Supreme Court ruled as it ruled, and states are acting as they're acting now. What should Congress do in the next session?

For sure. Because the Supreme Court, in its current configuration, ruled that the Constitution doesn't guarantee reproductive rights to women. I think they decided that wrongly, but their decision simply says that right to privacy is not constitutionally guaranteed. I disagree. But that doesn't mean Congress can't pass laws to protect a woman's right to her own reproductive health choices. So I support Congress taking action to codify, essentially codify, the protections that Roe provided. And rather than doing it through the action of the Supreme Court, do it through congressional action. Get it to the president's desk and make it the law of the land.

What should Congress be doing with gun control? Should they be doing anything? Are there specific weapons that need to be targeted? What are your thoughts?

We should do the things that most Americans support that are logical. We should put a cap on the size of a magazine so that you can't have a mass shooting that is so lethal that it shocks the conscience. No one needs more than ten rounds in a magazine. If you're a deer hunter, a target shooter, or for your own personal protection, you don't need a 30 round magazine. We ought to limit that. We ought to outlaw once and for all devices that turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. So-called bump stocks. The thing we saw in Las Vegas. We ought to strengthen red flag laws so that domestic abusers can temporarily have their weapons taken from them until it's clear that they're potential victims are safe. There are a lot of things we can do. We ought to outlaw weapons of war. You can't own a bazooka. You can't own a flamethrower. You can't own a nuclear weapon. You shouldn't be able to own a weapon that was specifically designed to kill humans at a fast rate. So I support the Second Amendment. I go deer hunting every year and I sit in that deer camp. And I have never heard one of the other hunters talk about the need for a high capacity magazine or for a bump stock. In fact, I remember being in deer camp, talking to the guys and none of them even knew what a bump stock was. What they want is their hunting rifle. They want to be able to have a gun for personal protection. That's fine. That's part of our heritage. But what's happened is that the debate over common sense gun safety laws has evolved into a debate that's not rational. You know, if we just do what most Americans want, they want to have their hunting rifles. They want to have weapons for personal protection. They want to be able to target shoot. And they want to make sure we don't have weapons of war on the streets, that could turn into another terrible shooting at an elementary school or movie theater or grocery store.

What should Congress be doing in the next session to address climate change? It took a big step this term. What is the next step?

I think it's to continue on this path, to embrace this notion that technological change, when it comes to renewable energy, is driving this debate. In fact, industry and technology is ahead of policy on this. We could do so much more transitioning to renewable sources of energy. We're limiting emissions. I would like to be more robust in the transition over time to electric vehicles. I was happy that Senator Manchin finally, sort of, came around and worked into this most recent piece of legislation some of what Senator Stabenow and I have been working for. So it's more of the same. It's essentially trying to meet the problem at a scale equal to the problem and the way we do that is to continue to do more of the same.

I think also recognizing that very often the concern people have about addressing climate change is they somehow believe they have to sacrifice the economy in order to save the planet. Of course, what we now know, what many of us have known for a long time, is that that's a false choice. We can actually build an economy around sustainable energy solutions and make it here in America, make electric vehicles here in America, make solar panels. The entire solar supply chain can be built now in America. Thankfully, we were able to get some legislation that encourages that. So we have other initiatives that I think we need to consider. We need to consider some way to decarbonize the environment where there are market based solutions that we ought to consider. But it's doing more of what we just did and leaning in.

What about the economy? We're dealing with inflation now. What should Congress be doing in the next session to address inflation?

I think what we should do is recognize that if we're going to have an economy that is sustainable, we have to manufacture products here. We have to grow and make things here. That doesn't mean we don't participate in the global economy. It's a reality. But for the last several decades, the transition in the U.S. economy has been from production to consumption. We have essentially offshored all the production in the name of cheap products, and suddenly it's bitten us in a way that many of us would have predicted. So what we need to do is learn that lesson and double down on manufacturing in the United States. Again, we took a step toward that with some of the legislation that focuses on energy production. We're in chip production, for example, we're learning the lesson that was made more real to us as a result of the pandemic. And that is, you cannot be dependent, if you're going to have an economy that's sustainable, can't be dependent on offshore foreign production and put ourselves in a position of only being consumers of a global production economy. That just doesn't work. We have incredible capacity to manufacture. Other countries have industrial policy. The bills that we just passed, the CHIPS Act, the other legislation relative to energy is industrial policy. So that's the starting point. The other piece of it that is really important is to increase access to post-secondary training, not just higher education, not just conventional four year degrees, but apprenticeship programs. So that as we increase our capacity here in the United States to produce, we can match the skills of the workforce with the needs of the employers. That's another result of us offshoring so much of our manufacturing capacity. We haven't invested in skills. So those are two really clear policies that support domestic manufacturing, support skilling our workforce, to be as prepared as they can be for the jobs of the 21st century.

We see it right here in this part of the state, where there's a company called Hemlock Semiconductor, which is benefiting from some of the policies that I've been pushing. They produce high grade polysilicon. Enforcing trade restrictions on China, where they use slave labor to make polysilicon, has allowed a domestic company to fulfill a lot of the domestic market needs. That's a great thing. They can grow, and like other companies, their growth is going to be limited by the ability to access skilled workers. So we need to operate on both fronts.

It's the 2022 election, but we're still going over the 2020 election with people denying the outcome and states, including Michigan, playing with their voting regulations. What are your thoughts on the denial we've been seeing on the part of some candidates?

It's completely irrational for people to assert that the 2020 election was not a free and fair election. There's no credible evidence to support those theories. They are simply just wild theories, but they fit a particular narrative. Some Republicans may not openly spout these claims, but they don't deny them either. They want to have it both ways and support the leadership positions in the Congress, the people who accommodate these crazy theories. This is not a moment in American history where people can be ambiguous on this question. You got to state clearly what you believe. The election was a free and fair election. Joe Biden won. There were a lot of people disappointed when Donald Trump won. I was disappointed that he won, but he won the election and he became the president. And I acknowledge that. We can't have a country that is so divorced from reality that we can decide for ourselves whether the law of gravity applies. It applies. I mean, it's not healthy for a democracy for people to engage in these conspiracy theories. What's needed is not just those of us who stand up and say, look, this did not happen, the president won the election fair and square. It's not enough to just be silent on the question. The reason these conspiracy theories continue is that there are those people who advocate them, and then there are people who sit sort of quietly on the sideline riding that wave of anger and irrationality and don't have the courage to tell the people the truth. If you don't have the courage to tell your own supporters a truth that's hard, you're not fit to hold these offices because the job is one where you have to do that all the time.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Taylor Bowie is a senior studying English Literature at the University of Michigan and an intern in the Michigan Radio newsroom. She is originally from Owosso, Michigan.
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