Republican TV ads target Stevens, Slotkin on impeachment stances

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Republicans are attacking two Michigan Democrats who flipped GOP House seats in 2018 with an advertisement wave sparked by the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, but the House speaker plans a counter-offensive to bolster them. 

The Republican National Committee last week began airing television ads in Metro Detroit targeting Democratic U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Holly and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills, criticizing their support for “endless investigations” and “endless hearings” to the detriment of “fixing health care” and “lowering drug prices.”

A screenshot of a Republican National Committee ad criticizing U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly. The TV commercial was aired on the weekend of Oct. 5-6, 2019.

The commercials against Slotkin and Stevens are part of a $2 million Republican National Committee television and digital ad buy in congressional districts of more than 60 vulnerable Democrats, said RNC spokesman Rick Gorka. He did not immediately say how much of the $2 million is being spent in Michigan. 

The Republican commercials emerged shortly after Slotkin and Stevens, who flipped seats last year in the traditionally Republican 8th and 11th districts, voiced support for an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s request to the Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat who is running for president. 

The commercials seem to make good on a promise from RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Fox News last week, when the Michigan native criticized Democrats such as Slotkin and Stevens as running as “centrist,” but later backing an impeachment inquiry. 

“Their voters, we’re already seeing, aren’t liking it,” McDaniel said Thursday. “We’re running ads in those districts and we’re going to hold those candidates responsible.”

Vice President Mike Pence also is planning to barnstorm congressional districts represented by vulnerable Democrats who are in support of the impeachment inquiry, including the 8th District, according to a Politico report

Slotkin and Stevens were among dozens of House Democrats who had held out support for an impeachment inquiry, but changed their stances amid allegations that Trump improperly used his office to ask Ukraine to probe a political rival while withholding nearly $400 million in promised aid.

A Democratic group with close ties to Pelosi this week will begin airing more than $1 million in ads to bolster vulnerable House Democrats during the impeachment battle. Slotkin and Stevens will benefit later this week from "six-figure TV ad buys" in their districts, said Abby Curran Horrell, a spokeswoman for the House Majority Forward.

"House Majority Forward is committed to educating Americans about the progressive legislative accomplishments of Reps. Slotkin and Stevens," Horrell said. 

An ad slated to run in the Detroit area will focus on Stevens' work on pensions, prescription drugs and manufacturing, the Washington Post reported.

Besides Stevens' focus on manufacturing issues, the first-term congresswoman and former chief of staff for the federal auto task force has held recent town halls on ways to curb gun violence. Slotkin has been part of initiatives focused on election security and prescription drug affordability. 

Stevens said she made the decision to pursue an impeachment inquiry "out of a sober obligation to stand up for the rule of law and our national security." Slotkin told constituents last week she also made the decision to support an inquiry out of a sense of duty and to be a check on the executive branch, but promised to make no final decision on impeachment until all of the facts surrounding the issue are known. 

The $2 million ad buy in Democratic congressional districts is part of the RNC’s overall $8 million national ad campaign, the committee’s first such effort in eight years, said Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for Trump's re-election campaign. 

Many Democrats targeted in the ads ran on promises "to work on issues that matter," McEnany said. 

“In fact they were lying to constituents," she told reporters Monday. "Now that they’re in Congress they are in lock step with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi.” 

The RNC ad airing in Detroit area markets accuses Slotkin and Stevens of voting “with the radicals,” picturing them beside Pelosi as well as Democratic U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. 

The ad encourages viewers to tell Slotkin and Stevens to “put petty politics aside and start getting things done.”

Slotkin told constituents during town halls last week that she can “walk and chew gum at the same time” and pointed to a scheduled Monday town hall on health care and drug costs in Rochester as proof of her commitment.

A screenshot of a Republican National Committee ad criticizing U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly. The TV commercial was aired on the weekend of Oct. 5-6, 2019.

Last week, Slotkin held a series of three town halls with residents, in which she spent much of her time explaining her support and the duty she felt to support the impeachment inquiry. Her message was greeted by groups divided by the issue.

The ad follows targeted digital ads last week from the National Republican Campaign Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund in Slotkin’s and Stevens’ districts, criticizing the representatives support for the inquiry. 

Republicans for Rule of Law also will continue a $1 million ad campaign this week on Fox News encouraging Republican House members, including U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, to “speak out against President Trump’s abuse of power in the Ukraine scandal.”

“Honest Republicans will say publicly what they believe privately,” said Chris Truax, a spokesman for the group. “Some, like Sen. Mitt Romney, already have. They must tell their constituents — as well as the Ukrainian, Chinese and other governments — that foreign interference in American elections is unconditionally forbidden.”

At a Detroit Economic Club forum last Wednesday, Upton said he supports an inquiry into Trump's actions but not a formal impeachment inquiry. He added it's too early to form a conclusion, but he said Trump's comments on the Ukraine were "not OK."