U.S. House candidates pump out TV ads covering health care, backgrounds

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Congressional candidates in Michigan are starting to interrupt viewers' favorite television shows with seven weeks to go before the primary election, . 

Democrat Andy Levin on Tuesday released one of the first TV ads for a U.S. House race in the Metro Detroit area.  

And Republican Lena Epstein, who is running in the crowded primary contest to replace retiring GOP Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham, began running cable TV ads about a month ago.  

Focusing on health care coverage, Levin's cable and digital ads will begin appearing Tuesday as part of an $80,000 buy over two weeks targeting Oakland and Macomb counties, according to his campaign. 

Levin is running for the Democratic nomination in the 9th District, hoping to succeed his father, longtime Rep. Sandy Levin of Royal Oak, who is retiring.

He faces former state Rep. Ellen Lipton of Huntington Woods and Martin Brook of Bloomfield Township in the primary. Republican Candius Stearns of Sterling Heights is also running. 

Levin's 30-second ad, titled "Personal," features his family. His wife, Mary, explains that two of their children have Crohn's disease, a chronic condition that's "manageable, but the medicine costs a fortune." 

"Here's one bill for $18,000," Levin says, holding up an invoice. "We're covered with good health insurance but not everyone is. So I'll put Michigan families first and fight for Medicare for all and to cut prescription drug costs."

Epstein's latest cable TV ad touts her credentials as a business leader who will stand "shoulder to shoulder" in Congress with Michigan's small businesses. 

Her primary opponents are state Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall of White Lake, former Congressman Kerry Bentivolio of Milford, state Rep. Klint Kesto of Commerce Township and former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski of Troy. 

Other federal candidates are also pushing out television ads across Michigan. 

George Franklin last week began airing a TV ad in southwest Michigan, where he's among four Democrats competing to take on longtime GOP Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph in the 6th District. His opponents are Matt Longjohn of Portage, David Benac of Kalamazoo and Rick Eichholz of St. Joseph.

Franklin's ad also focuses on health care, telling the story of his wife Harriet, who at age 50, "went from what we thought was perfect health to dying from cancer in seven days."

"Nobody needs to tell my family how important health insurance is," Franklin says. "That’s why I will always stand up against Donald Trump to make sure Michigan families have the health care they deserve."

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sandy Pensler of Grosse Pointe had aired about $587,000 in broadcast TV ads through June 4, according to tracking by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, in addition to cable TV ads.

Pensler is in a contest for the GOP nomination with U.S. Army veteran John James of Farmington Hills, who launched his first TV ad in May.

Both aim to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is seeking a fourth term.