On Aug. 7, 2018, voters in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District will choose a Democratic nominee to run against Republican incumbent Rep. Paul Mitchell in November. WDET’s Pat Batcheller interviewed the three candidates who are on the Democratic primary ballot. Click on the audio player to hear the conversation and read a transcript below.
Frank Accavitti, Jr.
Elected experience: Eastpointe City Council 1995-99; Eastpointe Mayor 1999-2002; Mich. House of Representatives 2003-09; Macomb County Commissioner, 2009-11
Other Experience: CEO, Accavitti Consulting Group
Education: Wayne State University, Western Michigan University
Campaign website: Frank Accavitti, Jr. for Congress
Facebook: Frank Accivitti, Jr. for Congress
You ran against Paul Mitchell, who won the 2016 general election. Why are you running again?
Frank Accavitti: I think that the people of the 10th Congressional District deserve a representative who is responsive to their needs, has true town hall meetings where they can attend and talk with him about their needs from Washington. They’re not getting that currently. I hope to win this election and provide that service for those people.
How do you beat an incumbent who won by such a large margin two years ago?
Frank Accavitti: Well, part of his margin, of course, was a wave that occurred in 2016, a red wave. Other than that, you just get on the street and you walk, and you walk, and you walk. And you talk, and you talk, and you talk. Shoe leather is going to win this election.
What have people been telling you when you meet them?
Frank Accavitti: Different folks have different issues. Soybean farmers are very concerned about tariffs and retaliation from nations. Sugar beet farmers also are concerned. Women, mothers especially, are concerned about the safety of their children at school, and gun violence within our nation.
Some Democrats support the presidents tariffs, especially on China. Where do you stand?
Frank Accavitti: I believe in free trade. I believe we should bring other parties to the table and negotiate with them instead of unilaterally firing off various tariffs.
There are three Democrats on the ballot besides yourself. What makes you the best Democrat to take on Paul Mitchell?
Frank Accavitti: Experience. I’ve served as a state representative for six years, I’ve sat in a mayor’s chair for four years, I’ve been a councilman for four years, and a county commissioner for two. The experience of being able to take what people tell me they need and making it into legislation and making it into public policy.
Do you think you’re progressive enough to win support of anti-establishment Democrats?
Frank Accavitti: I do. I think people who look at my record will see I’ve been very progressive on many issues.
Frank Accavitti: When I was first mayor in Eastpointe, we had what a situation that was often referred to as “driving while black.” I looked at the situation and I got diversity training for my police department and instituted policies that made Eastpointe a friendlier community.
Some Democrats have made opposing President Trump a major campaign theme. is being anti-Trump enough to win? Do Democrats need a more substantial message?
Frank Accavitti: I believe you’re exactly right, Pat. Our message needs to be what we’re going to do for people and how we’re going to do that. By raising the minimum wage, by bringing more infrastructure jobs to the 10th, and to all of Michigan, which will help pump up our middle class. We need to talk about positive change we’re going to make and stop just attacking one man. We give him too much credence when time is spent attacking him. Let’s move beyond Donald Trump. Let’s talk about what we’re going to do for the people.
WDET listeners have identified four issues that they have told us matter most to them. They include water, transportation, education, and gerrymandering. Let’s take each one separately. How would you improve water if you were elected to Congress?
Frank Accavitti: Well, no community wants to pollute, they just don’t have the dollars needed to rebuild their system so it stops polluting. And so, by guaranteeing grants or loans for communities to go in and separate their sewer systems, and to improve treatment of sewage and storm water, we can treat the Great Lakes with the respect we should be treating them.
How would you improve transportation?
Frank Accavitti: Transportation is a difficult issue, especially in the Macomb County portion of the district. Northern Macomb County has difficulty understanding why they should pay for improvements to mass transportation when they would get very little from the money that they would spend. Federal dollars would help. But we need to educate all the people of the 10th district why mass transit is important for all their communities.
And why is it important?
Frank Accavitti: It’s important because people need to get to work. I am the president of a nonprofit organization in Mount Clemens that serves children and families that have been abused. Our biggest problem is transportation, getting the folks out to our center from their homes so they can go through the treatment process and the interview process that we offer them. Transportation is how people get to work. It’s how people get to doctor’s appointments. It’s how people get groceries, it’s how people go shopping for their needs. Many people need mass transportation to be able to do that.
If you were elected to Congress what could you do to improve schools?
Frank Accavitti: There are a number of improvements that could be made to schools. The most important thing when it comes to schools is that teachers are compensated properly, that they are respected, and that local control is maintained in every school district.
One effect of gerrymandering is that elections, especially in heavily red or heavily blue districts, are decided in August rather than November. What ought to be done about that?
Frank Accavitti: Well, of course, these lines are drawn by state government. A law written by the federal government specifying a fair system would be the be the best way to handle the gerrymandering situation. There’s going to be a ballot proposal here in Michigan to correct the gerrymandering issue we have in our state and I will support the outcome, whatever it is.