Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) is projected to win reelection in what turned out to be one of the most intense and expensive races anywhere in the country, according to the Associated Press.
Slotkin, first elected to Congress as part of the 2018 backlash against former President Donald Trump, was running against Tom Barrett, a Republican state senator, who still does not recognize that Trump lost the 2020 election fairly and cleanly.
Both had backgrounds in national security, including service overseas ― Slotkin as a former intelligence officer, Barrett as an Army helicopter pilot. But that’s where the similarities ended, as the campaign made clear.
An early, ongoing clash was over reproductive freedom. Slotkin supports abortion rights, while Barrett opposes them, although he attempted to downplay that position following polls showing that even many Republican voters in Michigan opposed the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
The economy was also a big issue in the election, with Barrett attacking Slotkin for her support of Democratic legislation that, he said, was responsible for high inflation. Slotkin defended her votes, touting her work on a new program to reduce prescription drug prices that has been a longtime priority of hers.
In the closing weeks, Slotkin focused her attacks on Barrett’s refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the 2020 election, and secured an endorsement from Rep. Lynn Cheney, the Wyoming Republican whom the GOP exiled from party leadership because of her outspoken criticism of Trump and his efforts to overturn the last election.
Cheney visited the district for a joint appearance on Nov. 1, appealing to Republican and independent voters to support Slotkin for the sake of democracy, even if they didn’t agree with her many of Slotkin’s issue positions.
That appeal was important because the district in play, Michigan’s 7th, is a classic swing district that polls showed could go either way ― and that attracted many millions of dollars of ad spending by the candidates, parties and outside groups.
And although Slotkin had high name recognition, many of the voters in the 7th had not been her constituents before, because redistricting redrew all of the state’s lines.
But her old district was, if anything, even more Republican leaning. She won two terms in that district by winning over independents and Republicans, and it appears she has now done it again.
One way Slotkin has appealed to these voters is by staking out an independent position, and bucking leadership from time to time.
Slotkin said in October that the party leadership needs “new blood.” And although she stressed afterwards that remains a supporter of President Joe Biden, she has twice voted against keeping Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, as speaker.
But that’s the sort of dissent Democratic leaders are likely to accept as the price for holding such a critical swing district.