Why Michigan’s new Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin took heat from angry Democrats during her campaign

Elissa Slotkin met her husband on her third tour in Iraq at the palace of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. 

Slotkin, a CIA analyst, and U.S. Army Colonel Dave Moore were part of a U.S. team sent to negotiate with the Iraqis in 2009. 

“Our entire life has been connected to serving our country and serving in combat zones,” she said after a morning spent on her family farm in Holly.

A few hours earlier, she unseated a congressman who admitted publicly he was a bit stunned. “This didn’t work out the way I anticipated,” Rep. Mike Bishop told reporters after learning the election results.

But people who know Slotkin weren’t surprised at all.

“Don’t get in a knife fight with Elissa,” said Keith Slotkin, a scientist based in St. Louis who said anyone who knows his sister expects her to prevail, regardless of the odds. 

Elissa Slotkin defeated incumbent Bishop, a lawyer by training and former Republican state senator from Rochester, in what has been called the most expensive political battle in Michigan history.

She brings to life one example of the changing face of American politics. She is among 96 women officially declared winners of U.S. House seats on a night Democrats seized control, up from 84 female members in the current Congress. Slotkin is joined by other Democratic women with national security experience, including a former Navy pilot in New Jersey, an Air Force veteran in Pennsylvania, and a retired Navy commander and former CIA officer, both from Virginia.

Michigan and its jagged-edged Congressional District 8, which stretches across the middle of the state and includes Rochester Hills to the east and parts of Lansing on the west, had been watched by national strategists for months. Both political parties spent big money. An estimated $26 million poured in, according to campaign filings. Candidates raised about half and outside groups spent heavily on an endless loop of vicious TV ads.

They included grainy black-and-white images in slow motion with narration that said she was an unqualified outsider who made bad deals and funded terrorism. They said she was part of a liberal “mob.” Opponents cut a quick ad after a live debate to depict her saying she put political party before the country, despite correcting herself in real time. They accused her of wanting to bankrupt Medicare.

She had powerful foes, yes, and supporters, too: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg was listed among Slotkin’s supporters, along with military officials who worked with her.

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