Updated Aug. 1: This post has been updated with Shri Thanedar’s responses.
Editor’s note: WDET distributed surveys to some local, county and congressional candidates in key races on the August primary ballot to gain a deeper understanding of what’s motivating them to run. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Candidate did not respond to survey request. Visit Conyers’ campaign website.
Candidate did not respond to survey request before publication. Visit Gay-Dagnogo’s campaign website.
Listen to a conversation with Griffie.
Current job: Michigan State Senator, District 2
Education: Bachelor’s of Science from Cornell University, College of Industrial and Labor Relations. Master’s of Urban Planning from University of Michigan, School of Urban Planning. Graduated with distinction from officer candidate school in the U.S. Army, currently serve as a Captain and paratrooper.
Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: I grew up in a family that served others. As a firefighter, my dad ran into burning homes to save lives. As a social worker my mom went into homes to ensure families could put food on the table, had access to medical care and a roof over their heads. Too many families are dealing with housing insecurity, lead-contaminated water, substandard schools and little to no job prospects. I ran for State Senate because I believe people deserve better opportunities, affordable auto insurance, safer communities and a real investment in our neighborhoods. I’ve been successful in the Senate, passing at least one piece of legislation every year I’ve been in office, and have brought back over $13 million in resources back to our community. I would like to continue the important work of advocating for constituents on the federal level in Congress.
Why are you running for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District? I’m running for Congress because our area is facing unique challenges, including the cost of living going up, which affects everything from homeownership to running your small business. Today civil rights are under attack in a profound manner. We are facing a moment where my 4-year-old daughter could have less rights than her mother or grandmother and that is not OK. Attempts to undermine our democracy are at an all-time high with attempts to suppress our vote and cast doubt on the legitimacy of elections. My priorities when I get to Congress will be: affordable housing, family issues like affordable child and health care, voting rights and infrastructure.
What are the top 3 priority issues that the 13th Congressional District faces and what actions would you, as its representative, take regarding each of them? Cost of living: gas, groceries and housing. To solve our inflation problem, we need to invest in two things: increasing our domestic supply chain and increasing domestic manufacturing in a real way. By investing in infrastructure in these two areas — things like machinery, equipment and training for these jobs that are so critical to making our economy work — we’ll be able to produce goods at a lower cost. The root cause of inflation is from failures in our supply chain — we haven’t spent enough time and energy as a country making our manufacturing more competitive. We need to make more things in the United States. These generational investments in infrastructure will help create the largest impact. When we invest in our nation’s overall infrastructure — in addition to the things mentioned above — things like affordable child care, housing and health care, this allows our productivity as a nation to be higher and allows our supply chain to be more robust, because people have their basic needs met and are able to go out and work. The increased costs of supplies are devastating families’ ability to pay for their essentials, especially the rising costs of child care.
Access to an abortion: Receiving health care should not be a crime. Congress must protect a woman’s right to a safe abortion. Before Roe v. Wade, we saw very unsafe procedures, and women risking their lives to get the basic health care they needed to survive. Abortion access should be treated the same way we treat access to routine medical procedures, and insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, should cover it the same way insurance covers other necessarily medical procedures. Abortion access should not be politicized — we need to treat it the same way we treat all other maternal health issues. We have a maternal health crisis in this country — and all women deserve agency over their own bodies. We should live in a country with a system that is designed to protect women, not leave them at risk. Her body, her choice — it is that simple. Working to protect reproductive rights in Michigan has been a priority of mine ever since I’ve been in the State Senate.
Voting rights and civil rights: As Americans, voting is our most sacred right. We must ensure every citizen has the right to vote. If our citizens cannot participate in our government that means we don’t have a democracy. There should be no restrictions on the right to vote. Every American should be given the equal opportunity to show up and make their voice heard. I have also lobbied Congress and stressed the importance of passing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. I will always defend our democracy. January 6th was an attack on our democracy. GOP voter suppression laws are an attack on our democracy. We must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act before more damage is done. When I get to Congress, I will not stop until we get real results. I’ve also been a vocal opponent of the Big Lie, and was called on in the 2020 election to help save Michigan and its electors from the fraud of the Trump campaign. The continued attack on LGBTQ people is unacceptable, and a part of the growing movement to roll back civil rights. I’m committed to expanding our gains and not falling back as it relates to voting rights and civil rights.
What is your stance on guns in the U.S.? We need common-sense gun reform in our country now to address the epidemic that has put a stain on our nation. I pass the place my uncle was murdered regularly on my way home, and it is a constant reminder that gun violence is rampant in our community. It’s a shared trauma that few legislators, but too many people, share. I am proud to be the only candidate in this race with the support of Moms Demand Action, and have their Gun Sense Distinction award. I think we should be regulating guns on the supply side and better hold the sellers of illegal firearms accountable for the crimes committed by their guns.
What is your stance on abortion? Congress must protect a woman’s right to a safe abortion. When I get to Congress, I will work to make sure we codify Roe and protect the right to choose.
How would you address the current inflation crisis in the U.S.? As mentioned above, to solve our inflation problem, we need to invest in two things: increasing our domestic supply chain and increasing domestic manufacturing in a real way. We also need to invest in regulation, so that things like the recent formula shortage and crisis, which occurred because we relied on one factory for the majority of our supply, and that factory failed to meet FDA standards, can never happen again.
When we invest in our nation’s overall infrastructure — in addition to the things mentioned above — things like affordable child care, housing, health care reform, this allows our productivity as a nation to be higher and allows our supply chain to be more robust, because people have their basic needs met and are able to go out and work.
What energy and environment policies do you support? I want to make sure that my children and children everywhere will be able to enjoy the planet, just as we have. If we don’t take action on climate change, they will undoubtedly have to deal with the consequences of the problems that we are failing to fix.
The United States needs to be fully engaged and invested in a solution that involves more domestic manufacturing as it relates to our process of being “cleaner” and safer than other places when it comes to things like transportation and factories. It’s about thinking local – how we can decrease our carbon footprint and decrease our climate impact right here in Michigan’s 13th, and how we can encourage other areas of the country to do the same.
The climate conversation should always center around innovation. We need more investment in green energy to make it more efficient. We need to embrace alternative energy and fuel sources, while continuing to use oil and gas at a smaller scale. Don’t set a limit, but also don’t expand our use of oil and gas. We must invest in subsidizing green energy sources — especially things like wind and solar energy.
Listen to a conversation with Hollier.
Candidate responded to our request by referring to her website. View it here.
Listen to a conversation with McPhail.
Current job: Political Director Michigan National Action Network
Education: B.A. James Madison College Michigan State University; Juris Doctor University of Michigan Law School
Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: I am an Honorably Discharged Vietnam-Era Veteran and a life member of the VFW. In addition, I have over 40 years of experience in management including oil and gas negotiations domestic and international; governmental budgeting expertise utilizing zero based analytics; political and media consulting with an emphasis on crisis management. I am a Senior Fellow with the internationally acclaimed anti-poverty think tank PuLSE Institute.
Why are you running for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District?: I run for Congress as a Democrat (have been a delegate to Democratic National Convention) to help eliminate poverty and institutional racism that systemically excludes too many 13th district citizens from an America that should be a joy, not a nightmare of premature death, illiteracy, incarceration and hopelessness. Real reparations for Black Americans who built the economy of America with free enslaved labor, not a phony watered-down con job, will be a mainstay of my congressional endeavors.
What are the top 3 priority issues that the 13th congressional district faces and what actions would you, as its representative, take regarding each of them?: I run to increase Social Security payments so seniors can make ends meet as failed Democratic policies drive up the price of gas, groceries and other necessities. I will fight for Medicare for all; forgive student loans, provide universal basic income, and defend the right to abortion in addition to legalizing marijuana at the federal level and opening up federally regulated banks and other financial institutions to the marijuana industry. The biggest issue facing Detroit and much of the 13th district is poverty and schools that don’t work for Detroit children coupled with systemic racism of water shutoffs and inadequate medical care. Black women still die 40% more than white women from breast cancer. We need a holistic all-encompassing Marshall Plan For Detroit. One issue common to all of the 13th Congressional District is the need for comprehensive infrastructure to stop flooding of basements and compensate homeowners and renters for flood damage. We need public funding of these congressional campaigns so no one can buy a congressional seat because they run on millions derived from animal abuse blood money or are the beneficiaries of international lobbyists defending war crime policies that need continuous congressional support.
What is your stance on guns in the U.S.?: I was a columnist for The Michigan Citizen’s “Detroit Raw” and was a founder of “The Flint Voice” newspaper with filmmaker Michael Moore whom I worked with on the Academy Award-winning film “Bowling for Columbine.” I still serve as spokesman for the family of Isaiah Shoels, the only Black student slain the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999. I wrote every word of a speech delivered by Colorado Secretary of State Vikki Buckley to the NRA National Convention in Denver days after Columbine. I also met with President Clinton and the first lady a month after the Columbine Massacre. I live in Detroit’s Lafayette Park. My running route is now a killing zone with several killings including [recently] on Larned/Orleans, 2 dead. We can and must stop the killing. Detroiters are tired of being hostages to fear behind barred-up windows and doors. Sure we can stop selling military grade weapons but that alone will not stop the killing. It is not gun violence in isolation. The breeding grounds of violence — poverty, systemic racism, poor parenting and Detroit schools that don’t work highlight the need for leadership unafraid to meet those challenges head-on with a Marshall-like plan, not militaristic nonsense like ineffectual ShotSpotter.
What is your stance on abortion?: [not answered]
How would you address the current inflation crisis in the U.S.?: How are we going to pay for this? We tax the obscenely rich that pay no significant taxes, greedy oil companies refusing to ramp up production, pharmaceutical companies and cut/redistribute the war machine Pentagon advocated. I am a veteran. We need our military. But the U.S. spends too much money on wars and much of that money should be spent on working middle-class families, the working poor and those mired in poverty.
What energy and environment policies do you support?: I run to protect the environment and to stop corporate bullying on issues like Line 5, which should be a Big NO.
Listen to a conversation with Riddle.
Education: B.A. English, University of Michigan; J.D. Wayne State Law School
Current job: CEO of nonprofit Focus: HOPE
Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: Portia Roberson is the proud daughter of the late Pearl and retired Judge Dalton Roberson. She is a graduate of Cass Tech High School, University of Michigan and Wayne State Law School. A native of Detroit, Roberson is a former public defender and former Wayne County assistant prosecutor. In 2009, Roberson was appointed by President Obama to lead the office of intergovernmental and public liaison for the U.S. Department of Justice. She later returned to Detroit to lead the White House initiative Strong Cities, Strong Communities where she partnered with municipal leaders to secure millions in federal funding. The program provided resources for housing, public safety, and transportation initiatives in Detroit. In 2013, Mayor Dave Bing appointed Roberson to serve as corporation counsel, the city’s top legal position. Roberson serves as the CEO of FOCUS: HOPE, a nonprofit, civil, and human rights organization that provides workforce training to more than 500 students per year; feeds more than 42,000 senior adults per month; educates approximately 250 children in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Roberson is also the current chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
Why are you running for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District? As CEO of Focus: HOPE, I’m able to see how legislation must be crafted to truly impact people in their everyday lives. As an appointee of Barack Obama and as Chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, I’ve spent much of my career fighting to defend people’s basic rights. At a time when the right to vote, the right for women to make choices about their body, and other basic rights are under attack, I am uniquely qualified to hold the line against these efforts. Finally, I am running for Congress because as the only candidate with federal experience to ensure that federal resources get to the people who need it the most.
What are the top 3 priority issues that the 13th Congressional District faces and what actions would you, as its representative, take regarding each of them? As we travel through the district from Romulus to Grosse Pointes there are a few challenges that every community is concerned about. The rising cost of living and affordability is a challenge that is top of mind for every working family. The cost of food, gas, rent and basic necessities have gone up and wages have remained stagnant. One solution is to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour and to increase it with inflation. Another issue is canceling student debt.
Gun violence also touches every community. It is simply unacceptable to allow the proliferation of military-grade weapons in our community or any community. In Congress, I will champion banning assault weapons, further strengthen background checks and work with any fellow members of Congress that prioritize protecting children and keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
What is your stance on guns in the U.S.? I believe in responsible gun ownership and I am convinced that the American people are not willing to accept that gun violence is just going to be a way of life. As the next member of Congress, I am going to fight for more comprehensive gun legislation such as universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles.
What is your stance on abortion? I am pro-choice. What a woman does with her body is her business. In Congress, I will fight to codify Roe v. Wade and work with Gov. Whitmer and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to ensure Michigan is a place that offers safe abortions without fear of prosecution.
How would you address the current inflation crisis in the U.S.? It has been widely documented that some corporations are experiencing historic profits while working people struggle under historic inflation. This means Congress must tackle corporate greed as well provide direct support to families during this crisis. I would like to see Congress consider a new national moratorium on evictions and explore longer-term strategies such as increasing U.S. manufacturing capacity to help address our supply chain issues.
What energy and environment policies do you support? I believe that clean air, clean food and clean water are a human right. We must do everything we can to stop climate chaos and protect our planet. I believe that we can create millions of jobs moving to a green economy that promotes solar and wind energy and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. We can train and re-tool people at all skill levels for these jobs of the future now. In addition, I believe that the United States should be a leader on climate change and re-engage with the full force of the United States to move forward on initiatives that will reverse the effects of global warming.
Listen to a conversation with Roberson.
Listen to a conversation with Rutledge.
Current job: State representative
Education: Ph.D. Chemistry, MBA
Tell us about yourself in 200 words or less: I grew up in abject poverty in a 900-square-foot home with no running water. I worked as a janitor and there were nights I slept in my car to make ends meet. I personally know what it’s like to struggle and how people need a helping hand to get ahead. In Lansing, I’ve always voted for what’s best for my constituents. I also believe I am the only candidate that wholeheartedly supports progressive policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, etc. I also believe I am the only candidate in this race with a record of standing up to major corporations, in the interests of everyday people.
Why are you running for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District? I’m running for office because I know what it is like to struggle. I grew up in poverty, worked as a janitor, slept in my car some nights, and I was able to lift myself out of poverty through education and hard work. Now the American Dream is simply not possible for too many in our community. I am a scientist, a businessman and an entrepreneur. I believe my science background will allow me to craft legislation on issues like climate change that are rooted in research and facts. As a state representative, I’m proud to have brought $1.2 billion in funding for Detroit Public Schools, $97 million for literacy programs and co-sponsored a $1.5 billion Racial Equality and Reparations Fund act. In Washington I will fight daily to bring more funding back to the district so we can build wealth for our communities. I’m running for Congress because I believe I can have much more of an impact tackling these issues at a federal level.
I’m currently a state representative, representing HD-3 in east Detroit. In Lansing, I’ve focused on bringing resources back to my district, protecting workers, improving education and supporting everyday people. I’ve always believed in supporting workers and everyday people. I grew up in poverty and with a good education and hard work, I was able to create successful businesses. I always shared profits with my employees and when I sold the business, I shared proceeds with everyone at the company, from the janitor to leadership. I was always transparent with how I ran my businesses, keeping open books for all my employees, and CEO salary was never more than three times that of the lowest salaried employee. I know firsthand that uplifting workers leads to success, and I’ve always supported workers as a state representative, and it’s what I’ll continue to do in Congress.
What are the top three priority issues that the 13th Congressional District faces and what actions would you, as its representative, take regarding each of them?
- Education: I was able to lift myself out of poverty, mainly because I was fortunate to receive a free education and was able to complete grad school in the U.S. I believe everyone should be able to go to college or vocational schools, or learn whatever skills they need. Whether that’s supporting early education from Title one or IDEA Funding, or making community colleges tuition free, education funding is key to fighting poverty.
- Health care (Medicare for All or a single payer system): People should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick, without worrying about the cost, or if they’re covered by their employer. Health care coverage must include reproductive care. I think a single-payer system would be the most effective way of ensuring every American has access to health care. Additionally, not tying health care to employment would give people the flexibility needed to seek better jobs, as well as create their own business. Mental health funding and support has to be a critical component too. My first wife struggled with mental health issues and lost her life to mental health. I’m committed to making sure everyone has access to the mental health resources they need.
- Equal rights: In 2022, every person in the U.S. should have basic human rights regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or income level. Women should be able to make decisions about their body and health without government intervention. Every person in this country should have access to safe clean drinking water, regardless of income level. Every person over the age of 18 should have the right to vote in a way that is free and accessible. People should have the ability to marry whomever they choose. We need to reform the criminal justice system to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and with justice. We need to reform the police to stop the killings of mostly unarmed black men.
What is your stance on guns in the U.S.? America’s obsession with guns combined with the power of the NRA is killing our kids. We are the only industrialized nation with this problem. Four students were killed and 11 people were injured, 2 hours from my home last November in Oxford. These shootings are preventable and we need to get to work preventing them. There are many steps we could take to save lives. I would support things like background checks on every single gun purchase and transfer, closing the gun show loophole, implementing a three-day cooling-off period after purchasing a gun, passing red flag laws to allow family or police to petition the court to temporarily remove guns from a person who is believed to be a threat to themselves or others, reinstating the assault rifle ban for civilians, without a sunset clause, and more.
What is your stance on abortion? I fully support a woman’s right to make medical decisions with her doctor. Congress needs to do whatever is necessary to protect women’s rights to bodily autonomy and access to healthcare, including abortion. As a state representative, I co-sponsored bills 5542-5548, the Michigan Reproductive Health Act, which would guarantee individuals’ freedom to make decisions about their own reproductive health. In Congress, I vow to continue that fight. No one is free if women are not free to make their own medical decisions.
How would you address the current inflation crisis in the U.S.? Congress should take actions to end price gouging and stop corporations that make Americans pay more to increase their profits. I’d support legislation like the Ending Corporate Greed Act, which would impose a 95% windfall tax on corporations profiting from the pandemic.
We should invest in affordable housing, help people looking to buy their first house, and help families afford their mortgage. That’s why I support legislation like the Housing is Infrastructure Act, Ending Homelessness Act, and Downpayment Toward Equity Act.
What energy and environment policies do you support? Climate change is an existential threat to this nation and all people. I’m a scientist, I know what the data says. We only have a few short years to prevent the worst effects of climate change. I think we should have a transition to green energy, and invest in infrastructure, high quality jobs, tax credits for everyday Americans and working families, as we get off our dependence on fossil fuels. Dependence on fossil fuels is what got us into this situation and more fossil fuel development will only let large corporations harm the environment while price gouging Americans and keeping costs high, even in the face of record profits. I am a proud Champion of the Green New Deal Package
Listen to a conversation with Thanedar.
Candidate did not respond to survey request. Visit Bivings’ campaign website.