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Meet 8th District Republican candidate Paul Junge

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 Republican candidate Paul Junge. Get to know more about him in the interview below.

Why do you want to be in Congress?

My whole life I've been interested in public service and the policies that affect people in their lives. My first job out of college, I worked for a U.S. senator. I've been a criminal prosecutor. I've worked in my family business. I've worked on Capitol Hill as a staff person. So I've always been interested in the policies and things that affect people's lives. And it's humbling to me as I go around talking with voters in the 8th District who are concerned about a wide range of issues. And I think about the opportunity to be their voice in Washington. That motivates me every day.

The 8th District has a familiar incumbent running in Dan Kildee, from a family that’s held a seat in Congress for more than 40 years. Does the redrawn district create an opening?

Yeah, for 46 years there's been a Kildee in Congress, and they've always had a pretty safe Democratic district. But with redistricting, this new Michigan 8th District, as a partisan matter, is pretty evenly divided. Now there's Midland County and parts of Saginaw that were not in the old 5th District. So as I go around Bay County, Midland, Saginaw, and Genesee, I see a real desire for a new voice and a new vision to go to Washington. There's a feeling that, as we've seen decline in cities like Saginaw and Flint over the last 46 years, that if the Kildees have saved a job, it's only been their own job. We've seen decline in the district (and need) someone that will go and champion small business, someone that will be looking out for people, their interests and concerns about rising inflation and rising gas prices. And so, to your question, yeah, it's meaningful that there's a name that's known. But I think there's a real hunger to see some new vision and a new voice in Washington.

What's the main issue for your campaign?

If I have a main issue or two, it's what I'm hearing from voters. I went to an event in Frankenmuth back in February, and someone came up to me saying, "Gas prices!" That's what was of interest to him and I hear that a lot. There’s a general uneasiness and concern about the direction of the economy and the general direction of the country. There’s a real feeling that their voices aren't being heard, a real feeling that we maybe just don't have competent leadership, not just in Congress, but in the White House. So I think it's the economy generally. There’s also concern about crime, concern about the open southern border and a desire to see more competent conservative leadership in Washington.

Let's stay with the economy. What should Congress be doing on the economy and what shouldn't it be doing?

Well, let me pick up on that second point. When you have just reckless, out of control government spending that is helping to drive inflation, the last thing you should be doing is adding more fuel to the fire. It's been shocking to me to try to add up the hundreds of billions to, I think, nearly 3 trillion dollars in the kind of extra spending bills that Dan Kildee and Nancy Pelosi have been pushing through and getting signed by the president. Dan Kildee votes with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time. He tries to present himself as somehow a moderate. He's got one ad where he pretends that they don't like him in Washington very much. Are you kidding? They love him. He’s part of the team there. So, what Congress can be doing is quit recklessly spending and adding more regulation and more corporate giveaways.

I mean, this most recent bill that they at first pushed as an Inflation Reduction Act? They don't really call it that anymore. They seem to acknowledge now it's not going to do that. But it tries to pick winners and losers in the green energy space. I'm old enough to remember when that happened during the Obama years and we had Solyndra's. What that often ends up doing is (money) going to corporate donors, to the Democratic Party, and we need to stop that type of thing. Let's focus on taking the tax burden off of small businesses. Let's take the regulation burden off the small businesses.

Those are the kind of policies I'll be pushing, everything we can do for energy independence, inflation reduction, and focus on helping regular working families solve their economic problems.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, what should Congress be doing on abortion? Should it be doing anything? Should it just leave this up to the states?

I'm proud to have the Right to Life of Michigan endorsement. I support life. I think one of the objections we've had to Roe v. Wade was that it was a decision made by nine unelected people and that this should be something the people of the various states in this country get to decide. If I would support any federal legislation, it would be pretty limited. It would be that we're not going to spend federal dollars for abortions. I would support some kind of late term limitations. But I think this is an issue that genuinely should be worked out in the states.

There will be states, much to my unhappiness, that are going to continue to support unlimited abortion up until birth. There will be other states that say, no, that's not okay. I think in this kind of laboratory of democracy, we should let the states work those things out. As someone who is pro-life, I will be disappointed and I might continue to advocate it in the general public conversation. But I'm perfectly happy to let people's voices be heard and have those issues settled in the state.

Any thoughts on gun control. Should Congress be doing more or less on that issue?

I think typically when we hear elected officials comment on these things, often what we see is people that don't understand firearms and don't understand the people that like to use them for self-defense. Whenever there is a threat that there's going to be a banning, you suddenly see the sales of the various types of firearms go up. Law abiding citizens owning a firearm is not a problem in this country. At least it's not in my view. I'm a former criminal prosecutor, and as I have campaigned and I talked to police officers and sheriff's deputies on the street, frequently what they say to me is we need to enforce the gun laws that we have. Everyone is grossly unhappy when we see gun violence in this country. There's a lot of things we should be doing, but at the very least, we should be enforcing the gun laws that we have and not creating new bans that target law abiding citizens.

What are your thoughts about climate change? Should Congress be taking any actions that deal with climate change, or should we be changing regulations and taking out some of the things we've done in the past?

I think frequently the advocates on that issue of climate change get temporary victories, and then when the rubber really meets the road, they're scrambling backwards. Just look at what's going on in Germany. They want to decommission nuclear power plants, which seems to me a terrible idea if you care about the climate. But now that they're so vulnerable, needing natural gas from Russia, they're talking about firing up new coal fired power plants. That is exactly not the thing you want to be doing.

So I am absolutely all about energy. But the truth is, most of the solar and the wind, which are two of the most popular sources among the people that have great concerns about climate change, those aren't dependable. And they are, I think, less than ten, maybe even less than 5% of our energy source. We can be looking down the road and hope that we might be able to change the mix. But we need to continue to have all kinds of sources of fossil fuels in this modern age. The notion that we're going to suddenly have people huddling in winter because there's not enough energy to heat their homes or that people can't get themselves to their job, that's just not acceptable. We can do better than that.

What is your opinion about the 2020 election and allegations of fraud? Was the 2020 election fair and what has happened since with investigations and changes in the law for voter access?

I think any time you have millions of people expressing a lack of confidence in election results, the best reaction of elected leaders is not to label their concerns a big lie, and not to call them election deniers. These are people that actively participate in elections. It's much better to listen to their concerns and try to address them.

One specific thing I would say is 70% or more in every poll I ever read, including majority support in the Democratic Party, want photo ID to be required to vote. And yet Dan Kildee voted to prohibit, not just leave it to the states and let them decide, but to prohibit the use of photo ID.

I think we need to take their concerns seriously. Look, every election has imperfections. We just learned that Mark Zuckerberg says, yeah, the FBI came to us and didn't explicitly say the Hunter Biden laptop team is Russian disinformation, but suggested that that played a part in it. You know, those things all add to the concern about that.

So as elected leaders, I think you should have hearings on these issues, include both parties in them and address those concerns. It's important that we have confidence in our elections. I'm standing as a candidate. Should I win? I want there to be a feeling that it was done fairly and I won fairly. And if I come up short, I want to be able to say that as well.

Do you believe there was an organized effort to deny Donald Trump a victory in Michigan and other states? Do you believe there was actual fraud to the point that cost Trump the election?

I think in these elections, there was a strong enough margin in most of the places that while I wish we would have done a little bit more in the November, December, January time frame to offer those assurances, as opposed to just demonizing the people who voiced them, I think the margins in most of those states were enough. Ultimately, even if one or two (states) changed, you still would have had the results you had. Again, I don't want to go through a litany of things, but to turn to Mark Zuckerberg again, he spent tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions- this was pretty smart on his point, picked four or five swing states to invest where the Democratic voters are. I think Democrats, if a conservative donor had done that kind of thing, would have said, wait a minute, that's not appropriate. So it's important that we try to tell everyone we're going to follow some rules. We're going to listen to your objections. But from my point of view, the 2020 election is settled. Joe Biden is our president. And what I want to focus on is winning the 2022 elections. And as soon as that's done, we can focus on the 2024 White House and other races.

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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