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Detroit News politics editor Richard Burr and Washington correspondent Melissa Nann Burke discuss the latest twists of the 2018 U.S. House and Senate races in Michigan.

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U.S. Senate Republican hopeful John James complained this month that Facebook and Twitter were “censoring” a campaign ad promoting his service overseas flying helicopters for the U.S. Army.

The ad opens with a scene in which an unidentified individual is bombed from overhead, as James refers to “hunting terrorists in the skies above Baghdad.”

“When U.S. forces on the ground called in for air support, I was proud to have their backs,” James said in a statement. “We will not stand by and allow Twitter and Facebook to suppress our voice.”

Facebook did not remove the ad from its platform but inserted a warning that “this video may show graphic or violent content,” requiring users to click through to “uncover” the video.

A Facebook spokesman said the warning label was initially applied because of the bombing death depicted in the first four seconds of the video.

Facebook’s policies on graphic violence require that videos showing such a violent death of a person are placed behind a warning screen, so viewers know the content they’re about to see might upset them, the spokesman said.

The Menlo Park, California-based company has since removed the warning label in recognition of the public interest value of the video and the context in which it was being shared, the spokesman said.

Levin, Greimel get UAW nods

Democrats Andy Levin and Tim Greimel picked up major union endorsements last week in their campaigns for the U.S. House, as the United Auto Workers union backed both.

“On behalf of all active and retired UAW Region 1 members, we are proud to endorse Andy Levin for Congress because he knows that when working families prosper, the entire state of Michigan proposers,” UAW Region 1 Director Charles Hall said in a statement provided by the campaign.

Levin is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 9th District, where his father, Sandy, is retiring.

“The UAW helped lay the foundation of the middle class in this country,” Levin said.

State Rep. Greimel of Auburn Hills is running in the crowded Democratic primary in the 11th District, where GOP Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham is retiring.

“Tim Greimel has a demonstrated track record of fighting for working people,” Hall said. “In Lansing, Tim led the fight to raise the minimum wage and expand health coverage through Healthy Michigan.”

Kesto targets Epstein

An opponent in the 11th Congressional District Republican primary is criticizing businesswoman Lena Epstein for missing 87 percent of quarterly board meetings of the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund since 2012.

“Epstein had a chance to work on the most important cause you can think of, protecting children from abuse, but she wouldn’t do the job 87 percent of the time, when all it would take is a couple of hours, and a drive to Lansing,” said state Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township.

“This is my sixth year in the House of Representatives, and I’ve never missed a roll call vote.”

Epstein’s campaign said she had to miss and call into board meetings because they are during the work week.

She was helping to manage her family’s business, Vesco Oil Corp., co-chairing President Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan and, more recently, was pregnant with her first baby, said Brad Berry, her campaign manager.

“Career politicians like Klint Kesto should spend more time explaining their liberal votes in Lansing and less time attacking hard working women who have both a career and a family. It’s offensive and an insult to working women,” Berry said.

“Gov. Snyder appointed her, reappointed her and thanked her for her service because he knows the hard work Lena did while serving on this committee, and Klint Kesto should do the same.”

El-Sayed: ‘Hate’ comment a mistake

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Abdul El-Sayed said last week he made a mistake when he told Republican Patrick Colbeck that “Muslims hate you” during a tense exchange at a May 10 candidate forum.

El-Sayed was responding to Colbeck’s unsubstantiated claim that El-Sayed and his family have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization by some countries.

In a lengthy Twitter post, the Shelby Township Democrat called Colbeck a “race-baiting Islamophobe” but said he immediately regretted telling Colbeck that Muslims hate him.

“First, I only speak for myself,” El-Sayed wrote, “Second, my own faith teaches that one should seek peace in the face of ignorance, and I let my frustrations out. Third and most importantly, in a moment of deep polarization, we need far less hate — and far more empathy and love.”

Colbeck has denied that his comments about El-Sayed and warnings of a looming “civilization jihad” are rooted in racism or bigotry. On Sunday, he accused the media of peddling “propaganda for the Democratic Party” by deriding his comments, which have also been criticized by the Michigan Republican Party.

Three days after the El-Sayed exchange at the Michigan Press Association forum, “there are ZERO headlines denouncing his hate speech,” Colbeck wrote on Facebook.

Whitmer’s running mate

More than a month after announcing the formation of a committee to help her vet potential running mates, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday she is still in the “early stages” of the process.

She denied speculation she is closing in on a pick.

“What you’re hearing isn’t accurate,” Whitmer said after the candidate forum in East Lansing. “Trust me, I’ll let you know when there’s something to announce, but I’m focused on winning my primary.”

Many observers expect Whitmer to pick an African-American running mate from Detroit to help solidify support in southeast Michigan. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon expressed early interest, but sources have said Whitmer is also considering other candidates.

University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein, who had considered his own gubernatorial run, is heading up a Whitmer selection committee that includes former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and former Detroit U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting

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