1st Republican challenger to Haley Stevens announces campaign

    Haley Stevens (left) and Whittney Williams (right)

    Whittney Williams, a Canton Republican and Taiwanese immigrant, announced her bid for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Monday, becoming the first challenger in 2020 to freshman U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester).

    Williams has previously served as a Canton Township precinct delegate and serves as the director of diversity for the 11th Congressional District Republican Committee, according to her website. Her campaign describes her in its official announcement as a “pro-Trump Republican” and “former illegal immigrant” who spent 16 years “living in the shadows as an illegal immigrant before marrying the love of her life, Brian.” 

    The President Trump administration has pursued a suite of anti-immigrant policies. Its detention centers for migrants have sparked outrage over squalid conditions, particularly for children. Last week, the administration finalized a new rule allowing immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who receive some public benefits.

    Tlaib tears up over migrant detention facilities, Slotkin hopes to draft ‘guts of bipartisan legislation’

    “I am running for Congress because I love our country, believe in the American Dream, and want to fight back against the radical left’s socialist agenda,” Williams said in a statement Monday.

    The 11th district leans Republican by 4 points, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index. But in 2018, Stevens defeated Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein by more than 6 percentage points. The district has become a top priority for Republicans seeking to regain control of the U.S. House.

    Stevens was the top fundraiser among Michigan’s incumbent members of Congress last quarter, bringing in almost $750,000. U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), also a freshman Democrat in a Republican-leaning district, raised roughly the same amount, providing a formidable defense against Michigan Republicans. Both Democrats are on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s 2020 target list.

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    It had been widely rumored that U.S. Senate candidate John James would run for the Republican nomination in Stevens’ district before he announced his second Senate campaign earlier this year, this time against U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.).

    In a statement, Scott Hagerstrom, Williams’ chief strategist and former Michigan director for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign said, “The people of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District deserve a representative who shares their values and fights for common sense solutions, not a phony moderate like Haley Stevens. … Whittney’s story epitomizes the true American experience of hard work and optimism, and her authenticity and diligence will enable her to build a robust campaign that will be fully capable of flipping the district.”

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


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