SATURDAY, Feb. 22 — U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), her supporters and a cadre of counterprotesters flooded East Lansing High School last night for the congresswoman’s State of the District town hall. Slotkin’s last town hall in December drew national attention when she announced her intention to vote for the House’s two articles of impeachment against President Trump.
At that town hall, Trump acolytes shouted over her speech, creating a contentious atmosphere that resulted in at least one verbal altercation.
Last night’s speech had little to do with the president at all, yet a few of his supporters still showed up holding “Impeach Slotkin” signs. Conversely, two people stood against the wall of the auditorium with a banner imploring the audience to “respect Slotkin.” There were no interruptions.
First, East Lansing Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko took the stage to announce the reading of the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the school’s choir performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After that, East Lansing Mayor Ruth Beier came onstage to introduce State Rep. Julie Brixie.
Brixie began her speech in a manner relatable to any Michiganian: talking about the state’s rapidly crumbling roads. She mentioned an incident that took place Wednesday in which a piece of concrete from U.S. 127 fell through a woman’s windshield and injured her.
Brixie assured the crowd that the state is taking action to fix the state’s infrastructure. She cited the $3.5 billion that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has set aside to tackle this issue, promising that “the Tri-County area is going to get one-sixth of that money.”
“We’re going to reconstruct sections of I-69, I-96, 496, and U.S. 127, and we’re going to be doing that the right way,” she said.
For her closing remarks, Brixie talked about raising asset limits for social programs including food assistance and Medicare. Michigan has some of the lowest asset limits in the country. She lamented “the families that are struggling to get by because of these draconian limits.”
Slotkin opened her portion of the night relaying the commitment that she made during her campaign: no corporate PAC money. She emphasized that she “never wants voters to question why she is voting for a certain bill.”
Bipartisanship is another of Slotkin’s main concerns. She highlighted her work as a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of House Democrats and Republicans dedicated to working across the aisle.
Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were another main talking point for Slotkin, as Michigan is at the center of a national conversation around this harmful class of chemicals. As of late-2019, Michigan had at least 100 PFAS contamination sites.
Slotkin told the crowd, “I believe we should treat environmental security like we treat homeland security.” As a former intelligence asset and veteran, she is particularly suited to holding the Pentagon accountable for their use of PFAS as a fire extinguisher.
She added provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act that requires the military to stop using firefighting foam that contains PFAS. In the past, the Air Force has refused to comply with Michigan laws limiting these poisonous chemicals.
Slotkin then pivoted to health care. She created senior advisory boards on health care, including doctors, patients and patient advocates. Through advice from these groups, Slotkin created the Realtime Benefits Act, which promises patients that they will know the price of their prescriptions before they leave the doctor’s office.
She also covered her efforts to create smart border security, the problem of invasive Asian carp, and the bills she has passed to aid veterans.
The town hall then transitioned into a Q&A session. Slotkin’s first question was about the F-35 fighter jet. She has been outspoken about her desire for the Air Force to select Selfridge Air National Guard Base as an operational base for the F-35.
Though the Air Force has officially selected a base in Wisconsin, Slotkin said that “they’re having a lot of problems” and she hopes that, maybe one day, Michigan can “make sure the red carpet is rolled out for these F-35s.”
Slotkin’s next question referenced her proposed legislation to keep presidential war powers in check. The audience member wondered what the next steps were to “maintain Congressional checks and balances as tensions rise in Iran.”
Slotkin pointed out how many Republicans and Democrats over the years have been hesitant to oppose any war over fear of losing political power. Instead of heading into war, Slotkin said that “we should have a conversation as a country before we decide to invade.”
Closing out the Q&A, Slotkin received an inevitable question about her decision to vote for impeachment. She seemed hesitant to say anything at all inflammatory. She refused to place blame on either Democrats or Republicans. Instead, her response called for unity and civility with a Michigan twist.
Slotkin said, “When I was growing up, we never used to fight with vitriol about politics. In Michigan, we just fight about sports.”