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The five Democratic candidates in Metro Detroit's tightly contested 11th Congressional district to replace U.S. Rep. Dave Trott say protecting health care would be a top priority if they are elected and vowed to address student debt.

Speaking to a packed audience inside a church in Northville's Historic Mill Race Village, the five candidates — entrepreneur Suneel Gupta; digital manufacturing executive Haley Stevens; community organizer Fayrouz Saad; state House Rep. Tim Greimel; and radio personality Nancy Skinner — stressed the importance of flipping Trott's seat to the Democrats this fall, each arguing they were the right candidate for the job.

"We need to flip this seat," said Stevens, who was the chief of staff to Auto Task Force inside the Treasury Department. "We need to start getting things done for our economy and for our future."

The candidate forum was organized by the Northville Democratic Club and covered a variety of issues, including President Donald Trump's recent summit with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin; health care; pollution; and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Saad, who in 2015 became Detroit's first director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, said when it comes to addressing student debt, something she and her husband are dealing with, programs such as the G.I. bill should be expanded and students should be allowed to write off interest. And lawmakers should also pursue a free college option.

"We have models we can work off of," said Saad, noting the Detroit Promise Zone Program and the Kalamazoo Promise.

Several candidates went beyond calling themselves Democrats during Tuesday's panel, stressing the "progressive" label. State Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, referred to himself several times as a progressive, saying he was the only candidate in the field who has won an election.

"I've stood up to the right wing time and time again," said Greimel.

Gupta, meanwhile, said he's the only candidate with hands-on health experience. 

And "less than 10 percent of people inside Congress have worked with lines of code," he said. "...We need people who know how to use technology for good."

Skinner, meanwhile, noted the number of women running for office. She argued that women "will deliver better policies" if elected.

"We need more women" in office, she said.

The stakes are high, the candidates said.

"For our children, we are going to change the tone and tenor in Washington, D.C. and help take our country back from Donald Trump," said Gupta.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4686

 

 

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