The Republican challenger in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District repeated a misleading attack he’s used before, and danced around the accusation that his campaign has no real platform beyond criticizing the Democratic incumbent for frequently voting with her party’s leadership.
Former Lansing-area television news anchor Paul Junge debated first-term Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin Sunday morning on WDIV’s “Flashpoint” program.
Slotkin flipped the seat for Democrats by narrowly winning the Republican-leaning district, just two years after President Donald Trump won it in 2016. Junge has attacked Slotkin for voting with Democrats, but didn’t promise to pursue bipartisanship himself if elected.
“Yes, of course I will,” Junge said when asked if he’ll vote in line with Republican Party leaders in Congress. “The key difference here is that Congresswoman Slotkin presented herself as uniquely bipartisan and she just simply isn’t.”
Junge repeated a misleading claim that Slotkin has voted “96% of the time with Nancy Pelosi,” though that percentage is based on just a fraction of the total votes Slotkin has cast in her first term. A fact check by the Detroit Free Press and Politifact rated Junge’s claim “mostly false.” Junge has dismissed the Free Press report, saying the paper isn’t an “arbiter of truth.”
Slotkin countered by name-dropping legislation she’s worked on with Republican co-sponsors to address concerns related to rising health care costs and coronavirus relief aid. In the past, Slotkin, along with three Republican representatives, co-sponsored the Real-time Benefits Act to lower prescription drug costs, which passed the House in a 403-0 vote last October. Slotkin is also part of the bipartisan problem solvers caucus that proposed a compromise coronavirus relief package in attempt to re-start stalled negotiations between Congress and the Trump administration.
Both candidates agreed that responding to the coronavirus pandemic and helping the economy recover should be the top priority for Congress. Though Slotkin added that before the pandemic, she often heard concerns about the cost of health care from 8th District constituents.
Junge dismissed the problem-solvers caucus’ proposal, saying after the debate “this new bill is nothing more than a campaign document,” and that the caucus “never gets anything done.”
Slotkin says Junge repeats misleading attacks on her voting record because he has no other campaign platform.
“Mr. Junge has been running for a year, and I still don’t know what his health care policy is,” Slotkin says.
“Being a representative … is about digging into the details, doing what’s right for constituents and talking about how you’re going to help their pocketbook and their kids. And (Junge) can’t offer that because he’s an inch deep and a mile wide,” Slotkin says.
While both candidates say they support protecting the legal guarantee provided by the Affordable Care Act that people with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied health care coverage, Junge has repeatedly declined to take a position on the federal lawsuit, supported by the Trump administration, that seeks to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Junge says that he would support separate legislation to protect people with pre-existing conditions from being excluded from coverage, but, when asked, didn’t offer any specific policy proposals or thoughts on how to finance such a policy if the Affordable Care Act were struck down.
“We need to look for any and all type of means to make sure that health coverage is affordable for people,” Junge said after the debate. “It’s an incremental approach that addresses issues as they arise. That’s how I’d describe my approach to (health care).”
Slotkin and Junge will have a third and final debate on October 6.