U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) and Rep. Andy Levin (right) rally in Pontiac, July 29, 2022 | Levin campaign photo
With the primary election only days away, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) traveled to Pontiac, rallying Friday with U.S. Reps. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) around issues including health care, climate change and economic reform.
“These are outstanding members of the Congress, who every day are fighting for the rights of working families,” said Sanders, who twice unsuccessfully ran for president as a Democrat in 2016 and 2020 but became the face of the new progressive movement.
Levin, who represents Michigan’s current 9th Congressional District, and Tlaib, who represents Michigan’s current 13th District, are running in new seats in Tuesday’s primary election after the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission completed new maps for Michigan’s congressional, state House and state Senate districts.
Tlaib is on the ballot in the new 12th District against Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garret, former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey. The strongly Democratic seat in Southeast Michigan includes part of Detroit as well as Dearborn, Livonia and Southfield.
Levin faces a fellow incumbent, Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Waterford Twp.), in the Oakland County-based 11th District. The blue district includes parts of Pontiac, West Bloomfield, Farmington Hills and Troy.
Both were elected in 2018. Stevens, a former Obama administration official, was a relative newcomer, while Levin hails from a powerful Democratic family that includes his uncle, former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, and his father, former U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin.
Tlaib boosted Levin, who analysts believe has a tougher race on Tuesday, calling him a “true fighter for the people” and a champion for climate, labor and justice.
“It is so crucial that we both head back to Congress to speak truth. To finish what we started and send a clear message to the billionaires that we aren’t going anywhere,” Tlaib said.
Tlaib also touted grassroots efforts for the Green New Deal, corporate taxation and accountability and racial justice fueled by “people power.”
“The billionaire class and the wealthy CEOs are scared. They’re scared because we are winning, with no signs of letting up,” Tlaib said.
“In the place where many listen to lobbyists and CEOs, we instead listen and work for you,” Tlaib added.
Although Levin and Stevens have similar voting records, Levin has sought to highlight differences and portray himself as more progressive. In his speech, Levin criticized Stevens for not supporting Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Stevens supports strengthening Obamacare, a public health care option and other climate change measures. In her campaign, she’s stressed her record in aiding the domestic auto industry and labor, as well endorsements from abortion rights groups like EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
After calling for an end to qualified immunity for police officers, Levin also spoke out against Stevens’ support for Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s Invest to Protect Act, H.R. 6448, which has not passed the U.S. House. The bill would introduce grants to police departments with less than 200 officers, which may be used for various purposes, including purchasing body cameras, providing de-escalation training and improving recruitment and retention.
“Have we learned nothing? You can’t be shooting someone who’s running away 60 times in their back. We need accountability,” Levin said.
Levin touted his record on the Green New Deal policies, counting himself, Tlaib and Sanders in the minority of congressional members who have supported all 10 bills. They have not passed Congress.
Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — another progressive who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020 but won Levin’s endorsement — also traveled to Michigan to rally for the congressman. The two previously worked together to craft the Build Green Act, H.R. 2038 and S.874, which would have the U.S. Department of Transportation establish a green transportation program to support sustainable transportation projects in the states.
“A lot of people when they hear the Green New Deal, they only hear the green part,” Levin said. “My opponent said that’s pie in the sky.”
“Well, what do you think we’ve been doing the last three years? We’ve been writing real bills to transform our economy,” Levin said.
Stevens also has netted significant endorsements, such as retiring U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield); former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.
Levin and Sanders also made the case for free public college education and canceling student debt.
“It’s a gender justice issue. It’s a racial justice issue,” Levin said. “ Sixty percent of all student loan debt is held by women.”
“Let’s free people from that so they can start a family, buy a house, start a business, live their damn life in America. Get their piece of the American dream,” Levin added.
Sanders said Levin and Tlaib are “prepared to stand up to corporate greed,” citing billions in profits from gas companies, airlines and the food industry as examples.
“They are making huge profits and working people are paid more and more for the basic necessities,” Sanders said.
“We need members of Congress to tell the billionaire class to tell the CEOs of large corporations that they cannot have it all,” Sanders added.
Sanders also said America is increasingly becoming an oligarchy, citing disparities in wealth distribution and CEO-to-worker pay, and worker deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our job is to bring our people together to create an economy that works for all, not just the people on top,” Sanders said.
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