Rep. Haley Stevens Wins Hotly Contested Democratic Primary In Michigan

by | Aug 2, 2022 | Politics

Rep. Haley Stevens decisively won a contentious Democratic primary in the northern suburbs of Detroit on Tuesday, delivering a critical win for the pro-Israel lobby and other establishment groups that spent millions of dollars on her behalf. Stevens defeated Rep. Andy Levin, a progressive known for championing union rights and the Green New Deal, who was drawn into the same district as Stevens following the 2020 Census. When the race was officially called late Tuesday night, Stevens was ahead of Levin by 20 percentage points with nearly all of the vote counted.AdvertisementLevin, unlike Stevens, is Jewish, but he elicited the ire of pro-Israel advocates for supporting additional U.S. pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands, including restricting how Israel can use U.S. aid.Stevens’ victory in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District also speaks to her strengths as a candidate, the overall power of a female candidate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning a federal right to abortion, and the moderate preferences of many Democratic voters in the relatively affluent suburbs of Oakland County, just outside Detroit.“It shows the importance of money, the importance of women candidates, the importance of interest group support ― and also just the importance of being an incumbent in more of the district and people being satisfied with their representation,” said Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University.In a statement to the press, Levin congratulated Stevens on a “strong campaign” and promised to help her and other Democrats win their elections in November. Stevens will face Republican nominee Mark Ambrose, a military veteran and financial analyst.AdvertisementAs a result of nonpartisan redistricting, the new boundaries of Michigan’s 11th have made the electorate much more Democratic-leaning. President Joe Biden would have carried the new seat by 20 percentage points. Stevens’ victory in the primary makes her the heavy favorite to return to Washington for a third term.The contest between Stevens and Levin justifiably drew national attention ― and the outcome of the race will have national implications. Levin, a fourth-generation Michigander, is akin to Jewish political royalty in metropolitan Detroit. For decades, his father Sandy represented Detroit suburbs in the House, and his late uncle Carl represented Michigan in the Senate.But while that pedigree helped Levin succeed his father in Congress in 2018, it was also a key reason that pro-Israel donors arrayed against him this year. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which boasts a highly active membership in Oakland County, prioritized defeating Levin on the grounds that his proud Jewish identity and self-described “love” for Israel created a permission structure for non-Jewish progressives to challenge Israeli policies without fear of being branded antisemitic.AIPAC’s new super PAC, the generically named United Democracy Project, has won all but one of the races on which it has spent significant money this cycle. The group ultimately spent more than $4.2 million to help Stevens prevail. AdvertisementEMILY’s List, which endorses female candidates who support abortion rights, and which has ties to official Democratic Party organs, also spent more than $3.1 million on Stevens’ behalf. Progressive super PACs supporting Levin, including the more liberal pro-Israel group J Street Action Fund, stepped in to offset the pro-Stevens money, but ultimately matched only a fraction of their rivals’ funds.Stevens chats with Pontiac City Councilman William Parker Jr. at the New Springfield Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac, where Parker is the pastor, on July 23.Brittany Greeson for HuffPostGrassroots Muslim-American groups like Emgage, and the upstart left-leaning Jewish group Jews for Andy, likewise sought to counter the influence of big money with face-to-face conversations at people’s homes. But in the end, their efforts fell short.U.S. policy in Israel and Palestine is not a high-ranking concern for the vast majority of voters, and the ads funded by United Democracy Project, which did not mention Israel, reflect that reality. Levin’s triumph is nonetheless likely to make progressive candidates and lawmakers think twice before they seek to make U.S. policy in the region more evenhanded.Although most of the voters moved by the AIPAC-aligned super PAC’s ads were likely not thinking about Israel, AIPAC argued that Democratic candidates should conclude from Tuesday’s results that their base strongly prefers a U.S. policy of unconditional support for Israel.Advertisement“Democratic voters have sent the unambiguous message that being pro-Israel is both …

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