Slotkin picks up high-profile national-security endorsements from Republicans

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

U.S. House hopeful Elissa Slotkin racked up four high-profile national security endorsements this week, including three from Republicans.

A former defense official in the Obama administration, Slotkin received endorsements from former Obama Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; the first-ever national intelligence director, John Negroponte; and Stephen Hadley, national security adviser under President George W. Bush — all Republicans who praised Slotkin’s service to the country.

Slotkin also got the endorsement of Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, former deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan and former U.S. permanent representative to NATO, who said he hired Slotkin to work for Bush's White House in 2007.

Slotkin, 42, of Holly is running against U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, who is seeking a third term representing the Detroit suburbs.

The contest in Michigan's 8th District is rated a toss-up by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball, and has been described as a bellwether in the fight for control of the U.S. House. 

Before moving home to Michigan last year, Slotkin spent 15 years in various posts in the U.S. intelligence and defense communities in Washington and abroad, including three tours in Iraq.

Bishop's campaign responded Wednesday by attacking her national security record, noting she never got confirmed for her last Defense Department post and highlighting criticism of the Obama administration's failure to prepare for the rise of ISIS.

“Elissa Slotkin failed to get confirmed by a Senate with a Democratic majority because Senators thought she was unqualified and questioned her honesty," Bishop consultant Stu Sandler said.

"Senator McCain called Elissa Slotkin totally unqualified."

Sandler was referring to a 2014 report about Sen. John McCain of Arizona — then the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee — saying he had put a hold on Slotkin's nomination, calling her "unqualified."

At the time, McCain said Slotkin had been unresponsive to questions he had, but that he'd be willing to reconsider her nomination the next year.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat who chaired Slotkin's hearing as head of the Armed Services Committee, did support her confirmation. Levin endorsed Slotkin earlier this year.

Slotkin served as senior assistant to Negroponte when he was director of national intelligence under Bush. 

He said she was previously his intelligence briefer when he served as ambassador to Iraq, and briefed him each morning on the "dynamic security situation" in Iraq.

"I have seen Elissa lead under extreme pressure, working on some of the toughest security challenges our nation faces," Negroponte said in a statement. 

"I am supporting Elissa in her run for Congress, because I believe at this time, we need more elected leaders like her — mission focused, results oriented, who put the security of our country before politics."

Lute said Slotkin served on his team at the White House under Bush and Obama, but first met her when she was delivering a briefing to Bush on the security situation in Iraq during the period of the "surge" in 2007. 

"She had tough points to deliver — and she did so well, directly to the commander-in chief, on some very difficult topics. She clearly understands how to ‘speak truth to power,’ clear and candid but with civility and respect," Lute said in a statement.

"I offered her a job on the spot and, over the next two years, under both President Bush and then President Obama, I saw her intense level of dedication to our mission in Iraq and to our country. Elissa is a woman of character and integrity."  

Hadley said Slotkin joined his National Security Council staff after her first two tours in Iraq and regularly briefed the president, vice president and other senior staff. He called her "one of the finest public servants with whom I have had the privilege to serve." 

"Elissa has real knowledge and expertise to offer the country, but equally as important, she is willing to work across party politics to get things done for America," Hadley said in a statement.

"So even though I am a Republican, and even though Elissa is running as a Democrat, I support her — because she can work in a bipartisan way for the good of the country, and that’s exactly what the country needs."

Hagel said, during his time as Secretary of Defense under Obama, Slotkin served as one of his top leaders within the department.

"Her entire career has been about protecting America. Making sure that our security is strong and deep. That’s who she is. That’s what she believes. That’s what she’s done as she’s served in the Middle East in some of the worst zones we have seen and some of the most difficult assignments over the last 30 years," Hagel said in a statement. 

"She’ll take that experience and that belief and use that in Congress and be a very significant voice on behalf of national security for this country. We need that experience. We need that leadership for the security of this country. And Elissa Slotkin will bring it."

Hagel, a former U.S. senator from Nebraska, served as defense secretary from 2013-15.