Bishop (Dale G. Young)
Rochester — Both Democratic and Republican challengers hoping to win an open 8th Congressional District seat this fall sparred Sunday over issues such as health care, immigration, jobs and college debt.
The primary election is Aug. 5. The candidates hope to succeed U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, who is not seeking re-election. The seat is one of three open congressional seats, with U.S. Reps. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Dave Camp, R-Midland, retiring.
On the GOP side were former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and state Rep. Tom McMillin. On the Democratic side were Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing, Central Michigan University professor Susan Grettenberger, longtime economist Ken Darga and attorney Jeffrey Hank.
Perhaps the most testy exchanges came over what has become known as Obamacare, with Bishop and McMillin saying it should be repealed because it has hindered job creation; Democrats argued it is working but may need some improvements.
“It isn’t working,” Bishop said. “It should be repealed and replaced with something more common-sense. It will crush us if we don’t do something about it.”
“This has not helped jobs. It’s hurt jobs,” McMillin said.
But Democrats like Darga called President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act “several steps in the right direction” but with some problems.
“The Affordable Heath Care Act is working,” Schertzing said. “I wouldn’t want to be that 5-year-old child with sick parents and not have insurance coverage to help you through that crisis. We can do better. We can do that in this country. We can afford it.”
Hank took issue with Bishop and McMillin calling the health care law Obamacare and said the legislation allowed a friend of his to receive treatment for a pre-existing eye condition. “Namecalling is not going to work,” said Hank, pleading for anyone to come to him with examples of how it has hurt job creation.
The 1˝hour debate was sponsored by the Oakland-area League of Women Voters at Oakland University. About 100 people attended.
The 8th Congressional District seat encompasses parts of northern Oakland County and Ingham and Livingston counties. Other closely watched congressional seats include those of U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford; Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township; and Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls.
The candidates all spoke about trying to work across the aisle in Washington.
Candidates found some common ground: They all complained about the rising cost of education.
Grettenberger said the focus in Washington should be on bringing “good paying jobs” back to its citizens while Schertzing said the public wants politicians “to roll up their sleeves and get things done.”
Bishop said he’s heard frompeople that they’ve “lost all faith and it’s our responsibility as leaders to restore that faith.”