Only one of these House Democrats will pass a test of party orthodoxy in Michigan


WASHINGTON — There is much at stake in a rare Democratic congressional primary between incumbent and Michigan incumbent: the ideological direction of the Democratic Party, U.S. policy toward Israel, and millions and millions of dollars.

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., more centrist and better funded, is trying to bring down Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., the progressive scion of one of the state’s most prominent political families.

A recent independent survey Stevens found 27 percentage points higher.

“That’s pretty consistent with what we’ve seen,” said Larkin Parker, a spokeswoman for Stevens, adding that Stevens’ team “expects this to be an early call.”

But Levin’s camp insists the public poll does not match his own polls or reflect voter sentiment.

“Our internals still show very close racing,” spokeswoman Jenny Byer said.

Either way, the race is a draw National and International Attention as a proxy war between factions of the pro-Israel community, with the hawkish American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, supporting Stevens and the moderate J Street group supporting Levin. At the local level, both campaigns focused on wooing black voters, who make up 29% of the district’s voting-age population.

More broadly, the fight is hitting the party’s ideological wings and affecting which side suburban Democrats prefer ahead of November’s general election and the 2024 presidential race.

On back-to-back weekends in late July, two Liberal Lions, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., moved to Pontiac — 30 miles northwest of Detroit — to defend Levin. In addition to AIPAC, which helped raise funds and used its political action committee to buy over $900,000 worth of ads in the district, Stevens claims support from EMILY’s List — a pro-abortion rights group — and the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Stevens and Levin are at odds because Michigan’s congressional map was redrawn to consolidate significant portions of their existing turf into the same district, along with a chunk of territory currently represented by Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich. Lawrence decided to retire, and she has supported Stevens, as has Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The two legislators almost always vote the same way on the floor of the house. But Levin is an activist who has embraced the main pillars of the progressive movement’s agenda, including Sander’s Medicare for All health insurance plan, the Green New Deal climate proposal and criticism of Israel’s handling of its relations with the Palestinians.

One of Stevens’ most influential supporters that year accused the Jewish Levin of being “arguably the most destructive member of Congress on US-Israel relations.”

Stevens, who prefers a public option for health insurance, did not sign the House Green New Deal bill, and she has consistently backed America’s support of the Israeli government. Allies routinely describe her as pragmatic in her approach to politics.

In one of her few splits over major legislation, Stevens voted in favor of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which revised and replaced the old North American U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. Levin, supported by some national unions, voted against the Trump-era deal.

While the race directly affects only one seat in Congress, both the spending and high-profile endorsements point to the importance political elites place on the outcome of the competition, which for activists, donors and leaders is much more representative of the progressive and centrist wing of the Democratic Party.

Larkin said Stevens, following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling that upheld federal protections for Roe v. Wade picked up a “big jump” in their numbers.

Stevens’ support in the business community and among AIPAC-affiliated donors had helped her raise $4.7 million by mid-July, of which $1.5 million was still available for the final few weeks of the race.

Levin, whose father and uncle served in Congress, was having trouble keeping up. He had raised $2.7 million by mid-July and had just over $700,000 on hand.

Outside groups have poured money into the race, disproportionately in Stevens’ favour.

In addition to the over $900,000 that AIPAC’s political committee has spent on ads for her, EMILY’s list has spent more than $875,000 on ads supporting her. Levin’s outside supporters have spent just over $200,000 to further his chances according to records of the Federal Electoral Commission. Only one of these House Democrats will pass a test of party orthodoxy in Michigan

Fry Electronics Team

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