Will she or won’t she: Impeachment and the freshman legislator

The 31 freshman Democrats elected to Congress from Republican or Republican-leaning districts are getting a lot of attention in the run-up to the floor vote on the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The vote on the two articles of impeachment — voted out of the House Judiciary Committee on party lines on Friday — is expected to take place on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.

One of those freshman legislators is Elissa Slotkin, who represents Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which includes all of Livingston and Ingham counties, as well as northern Oakland County. The moderate Democrat from Holly defeated incumbent Republican Mike Bishop in 2018, breaking the 18-year Republican stranglehold on the seat by a little over 13,000 votes in a district Trump won by nearly 7 percentage points.

Slotkin is also one of the seven freshman Democrats credited with helping kick off the impeachment inquiry via an op-ed in the Washington Post that said President Trump’s alleged interactions with Ukraine were inappropriate and worthy of an impeachment inquiry. Less than 24 hours after that op-ed was published, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would begin the formal impeachment inquiry.

Democrats are expecting that these seven legislators — all of whom have national security backgrounds — will vote to impeach the president, despite the competitiveness of their districts. That said, the heat’s on big time in the 8th Congressional District, with a barrage of television and digital ads to phone calls and billboards to get constituents to pressure Slotkin to vote against and for impeachment.

In news reports, Slotkin’s said her office’s phones “have been ringing off the hook.”

Slotkin’s got a town hall meeting set for 11 a.m. Monday at Oakland University, and while these are other items to be discussed, it’s expected impeachment will consume most of the event. Slotkin said she will make her decision at the end of the day on Monday.

As I look into my crystal ball, I predict that Slotkin will vote to impeach the president for a number of reasons.

Yes, she has a national security background. Yes, she helped kick off the impeachment inquiry as part of the Washington Post op-ed. And, yes, she defeated an incumbent Republican in a district Trump won.

But she also has no really strong competition thus far when she stands for re-election. At the moment there are four Republicans preparing to duke it out in the Aug. 4, 2020, primary to challenge her.

Some had expected Mike Bishop would run to take back his former seat. And some had expected that Meghan Reckling, chair of the Livingston County Republicans, would run. Other names that floated about as possible candidates included state Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton Township, who wouldn’t have to give up her seat to run; former state Sen. Joe Hune of Fowlerville, who was term-limited out of office in 2018; and state Rep. Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville, who is term-limited out in 2020.

None of these people — each of whom could mount a good challenge to Slotkin — have thrown their hat into the ring.

The question that many are asking is: Who are these Republicans who want to challenge Slotkin?

Currently there are four candidates: Howell Realtor Mike Detmer changed his mind about running for a state House seat to instead run for Congress. Michigan State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder moved out of the district two years but said she’ll move back in if she’s elected. Kristina Lyke, an attorney from Fowlerville, became the youngest person and first woman ever to serve on the Pinckney Board of Trustees nearly two decades ago. Paul Junge of Brighton, former news anchor at Fox47 in Lansing, former deputy district attorney in a domestic violence unit, and, most recently, an advisor in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, moved back to Brighton in September.

In addition to not having strong name recognition in the district, these candidates have a lot of ground to cover to catch up to Slotkin, who’s worked the district tirelessly. She’s beloved by Livingston County Democrats, she’s even won the admiration of some county Republicans, and she really, really likes her job.

Slotkin’s going to be tough to beat. From regular town halls to community events to being out and about in the district, Slotkin’s everywhere, it seems. She’s demonstrated both her commitment to her constituents as well as her ability to work across the aisle. That she’s great on camera and in interviews doesn’t hurt, either.

For all these reasons, I predict Slotkin will vote to impeach the president.

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