Elissa Slotkin is a former Obama staffer who is now running for Congress as a Democrat in Michigan’s 8th District.
Slotkin is different from many other Democrats running for Congress this cycle, in that she doesn’t directly identify with the notion of “resistance.” To TIME, she said, “Since Ronald Reagan we have had this assumption in the United States that the Republicans are the party of the military, the Republicans are the party of patriotism, the Republicans are the party of American values. And if there was ever a moment for a strategic shift, it’s now.”
Slotkin first worked under the Bush administration before working for the Obama administration. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Slotkin Is a Former CIA Analyst Who Served Three Tours in Iraq in the Early 2000’s
Prior to announcing her bid for Congress, Slotkin attended Cornell University as an undergraduate, then Columbia University for graduate school. She cited her experience being in New York during the September 11 attacks as having a huge impact on her decision to go into civil service.
After she graduated from Columbia, she then served as a CIA analyst throughout three tours in Iraq. Following her work with the CIA, she served on the National Security Council as director for Iraq underneath George W. Bush’s administration. She then stayed on when Barack Obama was elected president, and eventually served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Obama administration.
Slotkin now lives in Michigan, on a farm in Holly, MI, running her own consulting business.
2. Slotkin’s Husband, Dave, Served as a Colonel in the Army for 30 Years
Slotkin’s husband, Dave, has also served the country as a colonel in the U.S. army for 30 years. Dave was reportedly an Apache helicopter pilot in the First Gulf War, Korea, and Kosovo, and he also served two tours in Iraq.
Dave has been a constant presence throughout Slotkin’s social media during her campaigning for Congress in the last year. Slotkin and Dave actually met while they were both serving in Iraq, according to a video Slotkin tweeted, in which she wrote, “My husband Dave and I met in Iraq, when I was doing my third tour, serving alongside our military and diplomats. He was a colonel in the Army on his fourth tour in combat. We’re proud to be a service family.”
Dave said in the video, “You can bring service to your community and your country by voting in November.” Dave has two daughters of which Slotkin is a stepmother. One of those daughters is in the Army, and the other is a working physician.
3. Slotkin Decided to Run for Congress For Two Reasons: Health Care & Partisan Ugliness
According to TIME, Slotkin’s two major motivating factors that inspired her to run for Congress were the current state of health care, and the increasingly partisan ugliness in D.C. She said, “For me, as someone who worked for both Republicans and Democrats, [the atmosphere after the 2016 election] felt so different, and so ugly, and so unbecoming of this country.”
For the issue of health care, Slotkin had some personal experience to impact her political beliefs. Her mother, who had breast cancer when she was a young mother, struggled to find affordable coverage for herself before she passed away because of her pre-existing conditions. Slotkin noted to TIME that her opponent, Mike Bishop, was a visible and smiling presence at the White House when Trump signed the bill repealing the Affordable Care Act.
She said, “It was like Christmas for him. And I turned to my husband and I said, ‘No, You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to ignore your constituents and vote against their interests and keep your job.’”
4. Slotkin Has Distinguished Her Campaign by Reflecting a More Moderate Democratic Platform Than Other Progressives
Since one of the reasons she ran for Congress in the first place was because of how shocked and disgusted she was by the partisan ugliness in D.C., it might not be surprising that Slotkin has built her campaign around a mild friendliness to the Republican party. To TIME, she said, “I don’t believe all Republicans are bad.”
Slotkin’s father is a Republican, and she also noted that her in-laws are supporters of Trump. She added, “I don’t consider myself part of the Resistance because that’s against something, and you have to be for something.”
Slotkin’s desire to cross the partisan aisle is also a noted strategy towards the region of the country where she’s running for office. She said, “In the Midwest, we cannot stand the vitriol. People’s neighbors see the signs and they walk on eggshells around each other. Moms tell me they don’t want to talk to other moms when they drop their kids off at school. Thanksgiving dinner is super uncomfortable. Midwesterners can’t stand that.”
5. Slotkin Is Running on a Platform of Health Care, Education, and Economic Opportunity, in Order to Keep the ‘American Dream in Michigan’ Alive
Some of Slotkin’s largest issues that she’s campaigned upon have been health care reform and education reform in Michigan. Specifically, she cites the need for affordable health care and access to affordable prescription medication. As for education reform, she believes in investing in educational systems “from the bottom up.”
Slotkin writes on her official campaign site, “College shouldn’t be considered a luxury, or a requirement for success, and should be affordable for those who are interested. We need more options — more certification programs and college apprenticeship programs that are paired with the specific job opportunities available right now in our state — to ensure that we are educating and training our young people to contribute to growing Michigan’s economy.”