The two candidates competing for the newly-drawn 7th Congressional District sparred face-to-face for the first time Sunday.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) and state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) met for a half-hour debate on WDIV’s “Flashpoint,” with inflation, abortion rights and accusations of improper campaign actions taking center stage.
The 7th District is centered on the Lansing area and includes all of Livingston County.
Discussing the economy and the effects of inflation, Barrett placed the blame squarely on Democrats.
“We got into this problem in the first place because of the decisions made by the President and those votes that were cast by my opponent, that doubled and tripled and quadrupled down on more and more and more government spending,” he said. “When you print and spend trillions, literally up to $10 trillion in new money that is pumped into the economy, the only result of that is going to be an inflationary effect.”
When asked by moderator Devin Scillian about the spending during the Trump Administration that added a trillion dollars to federal debt, Barrett ducked the point by saying he was a state legislator and not a member of Congress.
“I voted for balanced budgets as a member of the state legislature,” he said. “And since Joe Biden took office, there has been a hockey stick curve effect of inflation that has affected every American family, mine included.”
Slotkin said the inflation that is being felt globally had no easy answers.
“If there was a silver bullet on inflation, it would have been fired,” she said. “But the question is, do we talk about it as a political talking point, or just try to do something?”
On the issue of abortion, Slotkin’s campaign has criticized Barrett’s position of opposing all abortions except when the life of the mother is at stake, leaving victims of rape and incest without any options.
“My opponent will not talk about children who have been raped,” said Slotkin. “Will not talk about incest. Will not talk about the one in four women who has had a miscarriage, in the middle of the worst moment of her life and needs a D&C, because he’s black and white on this issue, and it just doesn’t work that way in this day and age.”
D&C refers to a gynecological procedure most often used for first-trimester miscarriage or abortion.
Barrett responded by saying his position was being mischaracterized.
“My wife and I have been through an experience with a miscarriage,” he said. “It is a devastating, devastating experience to go through. And obviously all of us, my opponent and I included, are very considerate of people who are going through miscarriages and everything else. That is not in any way what this is about.”
Slotkin accused Barrett of not being clear where he stood on rape or incest, nor for those suffering a miscarriage.
“This is people’s lives,” she said. “It is a kitchen table issue. So just either be straight and just own your position or don’t talk about it in such political terms.”
Moving on, Slotkin addressed publicly the reports that she is leasing a Lansing condo from a campaign donor, calling the fact that Republicans and Barrett’s campaign had made it an issue an act of “political desperation.”
Slotkin then went hard after what she said was Barrett’s innuendo about the situation.
“The thing that really pushed me is that Tom Barrett has insinuated that I’m living with him,” Slotkin said angrily. “If you believe I’m living with a man who’s not my husband in the same apartment, just say it, man. Like, just come out. But I think that there is a push here that is beyond the normal.”
Slotkin dismissed the notion “somehow there’s something bad going on,” pointing out that she is paying fair market rent.
Undeterred, Barrett again continued without proof to make the allegation.
“But I will say look at this idea that somebody is living with a lobbyist when there are 1,513 available apartments in Lansing, Michigan,” he said.
Slotkin then interjected, “I’m sorry, my husband and I would like to talk with you about that. You’re insinuating I’m living with another man.”
The owner of the home, Jerry Hollister of the firm Niowave, is actually living in Connecticut with his wife, while Slotkin and her husband Dave live in the Lansing home.
However, both Slotkin and Hollister are registered to vote at the Lansing residence, which Hollister says he consulted on with election officials and was informed was legal.
Regardless, Barrett called it “improper,” while dismissing accusations that he illegally funnelled funds from his state Senate campaign to his congressional campaign as “frivolous.”
Slotkin and Barrett are next scheduled to debate Oct. 6 on WLNS, TV-6 in Lansing at 7 p.m.