Michigan native comes home for run against Rep. Trott

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Digital manufacturing executive Haley Stevens is running for Congress in Michigan’s 11th District and hopes to take on Republican Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, in 2018.

The Rochester Hills Democrat launched her campaign Thursday, a day after filing a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

Stevens was chief of staff to then-President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force that oversaw the financial bailout of Chrysler and General Motors in 2009. She recently left a job at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago to move back home.

“For me this is about Michigan, and it’s about the people who live in Michigan and our growing high-tech economy, our advanced manufacturing economy and our world-class workforce,” Stevens told The Detroit News. “I’m an individual who’s worked my whole life at the intersection of government and business. I think I know what it takes to get the job done.”

Stevens, who also worked on Hillary Clinton and Obama campaigns in 2007 and 2008, is the first Democrat to announce for the seat in the 2018 cycle. The 11th District includes parts of Oakland and western Wayne counties, including the population centers of Livonia, Canton Township, Troy, Waterford, Rochester and West Bloomfield.

Trott won election to his second term in November, handily defeating Democrat Anil Kumar by more than 12 percentage points.

“Staffers from Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign are going around the country in search of congressional races, so it’s not surprising that a carpetbagger has come to Michigan,” said Trott spokesman Stu Sandler.

Stevens, 33, was born and raised in Rochester Hills and said she moved back earlier this year over the course of January and February. While she’s lived and worked in places like Washington D.C. and Chicago, Stevens said she’s remained well connected to Michigan, both professionally and personally with her family.

“It was time to come home,” she said. “My heart was here. For me, it has always been about Michigan. … This is my home, and I’m not going to let anyone else say otherwise.”

Stevens worked under former auto czar Steven Rattner as the Obama administration took an active role in the day-to-day management decisions of General Motors and Chrysler as the automakers teetered on the brink of liquidation.

Rattner called Stevens “our energetic young chief of staff” in a first-person account he wrote for Fortune Magazine. She describes herself as an “operations manager” for a task force established in the midst of an economic crisis.

“I always told people it was like running into work every day with a small cup of water trying to put out a fire because of what was taking place,” Stevens said. “I was the person who made the trains run.”

More recently, Stevens worked as director of workforce development and manufacturing engagement for the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago.

She hopes to put her professional experience to work in Congress, saying she’s “razor focused” on the creating high-tech manufacturing jobs and developing the smart-infrastructure economy.

Trott appears “out of touch,” she said, and there is a general “dysfunction” in Congress.

“I do think that causes a lack of willingness to listen and to collaborate,” Stevens said. “My entire career I have collaborated. I’ve worked together with people from industry and academia, bringing people together, and I think that’s what Washington needs.”

She’ll have plenty of time to make her case to Michigan voters. The state primary is set for August 2018 and will be followed by the general election in November.