By DREW HOWARD
Republican Congressman Mike Bishop and Democrat Elissa Slotkin shared their thoughts on gun control, climate change and President Donald Trump in a taped debate aired on WDIV’s Flashpoint Sunday night.
Close to $15 million is expected to be spent on attack ads targeting Slotkin and Bishop, according to moderator Devin Scillian, making the race for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives one of the hottest matchups in the state. Scillian kicked off the debate by asking both candidates to assess President Donald Trump’s term thus far.
“The leadership climate that has been set is a tone of tenor and vitriol that is unbecoming of the country I served,” said Slotkin, who served three tours in Iraq while at the CIA. “We can do great things when we are together, but he is splitting people apart.” While Bishop believes the economy is doing great under President Trump, he said there are still issues he and the President don’t agree on.
“I usually disagree with the President on Michigan issues – trade, tariffs, and the Great Lakes,” Bishop said. “The executive budget boxed out the Great Lakes restoration initiative. That’s important to me… we fought to get that funding back into the budget.”
Slotkin voiced frustration over President Trump’s actions on international trade, arguing that the solution has done more damage than good. Recently, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said the Trump administration’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum will cost the company $1 billion.
“I don’t think anyone disagrees that China is cheating in the global system – that sentiment makes sense,” Slotkin said. “But you can’t have the cure for the disease be worse than the disease itself. And if it’s punishing middle-class voters, if it’s punishing our auto industry, our farmers, then it doesn’t make sense for us.”
Bishop and Slotkin set themselves further apart on the topic of gun control. When asked whether they would support arming teachers, Bishop said that decision should be left up to the school district.
“I don’t think you should put the guns in the hands of anyone who doesn’t want to have it, and I don’t think you should put the guns in the hands of anyone who’s not trained to use it,” Bishop said. “But I do think every school district and every local unit of government needs to have those kinds of resources to do what they need to do in their district.”
Slotkin said she couldn’t think of something more dangerous than putting a gun in the hands of someone who doesn’t want to be a holding a weapon. She added that she would fight for universal background checks and ending all loopholes around the sales of guns.
“I don’t think we should be able to sell materials that turns any weapon into a fully automatic weapon,” she said. “Bump stocks, certain types of trigger mechanisms, extended magazines – I don’t know we need them here in our country until we have a strong conversation about how we’re going to protect our kids in schools.”
In a conversation on climate change, both Slotkin and Bishop agreed on the science showing changes in the earth’s temperature, though Bishop was hesitant to say the impact is man-made.
“Whether or not it’s man-made, who knows, but we live in a cyclical earth that’s gone through many different forms of weather patterns,” he said. “They weren’t caused by human beings.”
He continued: “I want to talk about Michigan, what we’ve done for the environment right here in Michigan to protect our Great Lakes. To ensure the water is pure, to make sure the invasive species is under control – that’s what we’re working on.”
In response, Slotkin accused Bishop of only advocating for environmentally-friendly policies “because it polls well.”
“Your voting record for 21 years has done nothing to protect our water, to protect our air,” she said. “You’ve made it easier to do oil and gas drilling in our Great Lakes. And you’ve made it harder to prosecute companies that are moving gas and oil in our pipelines.”
Bishop denied Slotkin’s accusation, noting that the Great Lakes are important to him on a personal level and as a politician.
Slotkin and Bishop also discussed issues around immigration, respective attack ads, and the future of healthcare. To watch the debate in full, visit clickondetroit.com/flashpoint/.