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Representatives Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Andy Levin (D-MI) face off in congressional district primary

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Primaries for a number of important Michigan political races are coming up on August second. In some cases, those primaries are likely to be decisive. That’s true of Oakland County’s new eleventh Congressional district, which leans heavily toward Democrats.

The Democratic primary is a battle between two sitting members of the US House. Both Haley Stevens and Andy Levin were first elected to Congress in 2018, in different districts, but due to new lines drawn by Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, they’re now squaring off in a race to represent the new eleventh district.

Stevens currently represents the old eleventh, which was also mostly in Oakland County. It was more of a Republican-leaning district when she was first elected. Stevens touts that fact as evidence of her broad appeal, among other things, as she described herself in an interview.

“Haley Stevens is the first millennial that Michigan ever sent to Congress," Stevens said. "Haley Stevens is the first woman who has ever represented Michigan's 11th District.”

Before she went to Congress, Stevens played a key role in President Barack Obama’s Auto Rescue Task Force. Since her arrival in Washington, she’s continued to focus on auto and tech-related issues. That includes spearheading the effort to combat a microchip shortage by boosting domestic manufacturing.

Stevens says she brings federal money home for community projects. She says she also champions constituent services.

“If it's a Social Security disability claim check, if it's an IRS stimulus check that got lost in the mail, if it’s veterans paperwork," Stevens said.

Stevens and Levin agree on a lot, and vote in tandem much of the time. Stevens describes the idea of losing Levin as a colleague as “a major bummer.” But in what’s shaping up to be a tight race, they’ve had to emphasize their differences, and sometimes go on the attack. That’s been especially true in Levin’s case.

On a recent hot Saturday at a Farmington Hills community center, union leaders and members rallied to support Levin before heading out to canvass.

Levin comes from a prominent Michigan political family, his father Sander was a longtime Congressman, and his late Uncle Carl a longtime Senator. But Levin has staked out his own political territory, aligning himself with the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

“My most important mission in Congress and in life is building a huge, multiracial, working class movement to transform this country for the working people of our country," Levin said.

Levin calls himself “the progressive candidate in the race,” but also someone who works well across the aisle. He says at a time when the country faces multiple crises and democracy itself is on the line, he’s the man for the moment. He’s also accused Stevens of being an opportunist who gravitates toward “the mushy middle.”

“My opponent takes maxed out checks from Jeff Bezos while I go down to Bessemer and organize workers at Amazon. Right," Levin said.

During a debate at Oakland University, Stevens snapped back at Levin’s criticism.

“Well let me just tell you, all my votes are not bought and paid for,” Stevens said.

This race has an interesting twist, and it involves Israel. The eleventh district has a large Jewish community.

Levin is devoutly Jewish. But because of his vocal concern for Palestinian human rights and his strong alignment with progressive Democrats, Stevens has drawn the most support from Jewish groups, including the controversial American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“That endorsement was based on my belief in a strong U.S. Israel relationship," Stevens said. "I've also been so proud to be endorsed by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, as well as several other pro Israel groups.”

But Levin says it’s less about Israel in particular, and more about who else AIPAC supports.

“It’s not about getting endorsed by AIPAC," Levin said. "It's about taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from them and then also taking money from other corporate PACs that also are supporting insurrectionist Republicans.”

Both Stevens and Levin strongly support abortion rights. They also both support major institutional changes, including ending the Senate filibuster and possibly expanding the US Supreme Court, though Levin accuses Stevens of hopping on that train only recently.

Despite their differences, there’s a lot of overlap between these two candidates. But one of them is going to have to give up their seat in Congress.