Haley Stevens looks to highlight Southeast Michigan’s economic promise in Congress
Ten years ago, U.S. Rep.-elect Haley Stevens was helping guide the Obama administration through the process of bailing out the auto industry as the nation dealt with economic crisis.
Now, she’s preparing to head back to Washington as a lawmaker, and Stevens - set to be the first millennial to represent Michigan in Congress - believes a new narrative is taking hold in the nation’s manufacturing sector, one where the 11th Congressional District can play a central role.
“It’s a neat thing to be able to come back to Washington in a different moment,” she said. “My campaign was by and large about manufacturing, the economy and the workforce - I am continuing to bring that energy and excitement into what’s happening in Southeast Michigan.
“There’s a new story to tell in Michigan,” she added.
Stevens is one of four new members of Congress from Michigan, joining fellow Democratic Reps.-elect Rashida Tlaib, Andy Levin and Elissa Slotkin in one of the largest and most diverse freshmen classes in U.S. House history. Democrats took the U.S. House majority in November, and the makeup of Michigan’s Congressional delegation shifted significantly as well - Stevens' win against Republican Lena Epstein in the 11th and Slotkin’s victory over incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Bishop flipped two Republican-held Congressional seats, bringing the delegation to a 7-7 party split.
Stevens has already met with incumbent U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, to discuss the transition, and said the meeting was productive. Trott had opted not to run for reelection to a third term.
“He’s certainly provided an open line, which I appreciate," she said. “We sat down as public servants - the campaign is over, it’s about serving the district and the region."
Prior to running for office, Stevens worked for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Auto Task Force during the midst of the auto company bailouts and has since led national workforce development and online training programs. She hopes to serve on the House Education and Labor Committee to put her background in manufacturing to use, expressing interest in researching and developing policy around electric and autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity and higher education costs.
Stevens said updated policies on these topics would have direct impact on Southeast Michigan, where manufacturers are already making significant advancements in new technologies and where there’s a growing talent pool of researchers, engineers and other experts.
“We need to bring our policies back to people,” Stevens said. “We reclaimed this idea of the people’s house with a new Congress...the responsibility is on us to address these issues, and that’s what we’re going to go do."
Other priorities for Stevens include working to lower the costs of prescription drugs, stopping the “dysfunction and the pendulum swinging" in U.S. health care policy and addressing gun violence. She intends to join the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and said policy changes such as universal background checks and banning bump stocks are long overdue.
“Parents don’t need to be worried about their children going to school,” Stevens said, adding that she hopes to strike the right tone by protecting appropriate firearms use while looking at root causes of gun violence in the United States.
As one of the Democrats across the U.S. who flipped seats and contributed to the party’s majority in the House next session, Stevens said she’s keenly aware of the responsibility and opportunity Democrats have in 2019 and beyond, and the importance of staying true to election promises: “We need to be able to actualize what we campaigned on."
“It’s important to recognize the accountability that comes with that allegiance to voters who put their trust in you," she said.
Stevens was elected co-president of the Democrats' freshmen class in Congress, sharing the role with Colin Allred of Texas, who defeated incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions in an upset. She and Allred share several key traits - they both served in the Obama administration, they’re both millennials and they both flipped a Congressional seat from red to blue with help from independent and moderate voters.
Stevens said it’s been exciting to meet Allred and other like-minded incoming members of Congress, pointing to fellow Midwest candidates Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa as examples of new lawmakers who share her focus on building up the labor movement and harnessing the power of digitization and new technologies when looking to the future of the American workforce.
When working with the Trump administration, Stevens said she wants to shine a light on the needs of the 11th District, particularly when it comes to the impact tariffs affecting manufacturing and agricultural sectors, the impending trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada and President Donald Trump’s tendency to announce major policy directives on Twitter could have on the economy and the middle class.
As a group, Stevens hopes Democrats can accomplish the parallel priorities of delivering big legislation while tackling “the needed oversight that we’ve been lacking” with President Donald Trump’s administration and the actions of federal agencies.
“It’s certainly important to recognize that we want the government to work for the American people,” Stevens said. “It’s not about what party you are, it’s about making our federal government function properly.”