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A Conversation with Hillary Scholten, Democratic Candidate, for the United States House of Representatives

I sat down with Democratic Candidate Hillary Scholten — who is running for United States House of Representatives — this month for a phone conversation. Hillary has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama, Michigan Governor James Blanchard, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Vice President and Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden. She represents Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District. 

Currently, I work as a field intern for her campaign. If you live in this district, I urge you to research her platform, vote and get involved! To the youth, get out there. You have the power to change the course of this election. Be the change you want to see. Do you part. Volunteer, donate, canvass, talk to family members or friends, etc.

For information on voting this election cycle, check out: https://www.vote.org/

Can you start off by telling us a little about the district you represent? What inspired you to run a grassroots campaign? 

Scholten: Currently, I am not a representative. But the district that I would hope to represent is here in West Michigan, and it encompasses all or part of five different counties — Kent, Ionia, Barry, Calhoun and Montcalm. This district has leaned Republican for a very long time, it’s been about 50 years since a Democrat has held this seat to represent at least the Grand Rapids portion. It has never been represented by a woman. I raised my hands around because I knew that this district was changing and that there were some deep and lingering needs in our community that were not being represented by our current representative at the time, Justin Amash. I feel this district would not be represented by my opponent, Peter Meyer. You know, I am a middle class Mom, I’m a public interest lawyer, I deeply understand how the policies that we create in Washington DC impact everyday people on the ground. The very core concept of a representative is that they are someone who is from the people so that they will be for the people. I knew that folks would see in me that type of relatability, someone who understood their everyday issues. Hence, we began building our incredible grassroots campaign, and it has gained incredible momentum. We’re so proud of where we are today.

Backtracking some years ago, you worked under the Obama administration at the Department of Justice’s office with the focus of immigration. What policies did you work to implement and how did it push you to run for Congress? 

I worked in advising on immigration policy. I worked at a component of the Department of Justice called the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Everyday, my job was to help make really tough decisions about immigration policy after considering factors on the right and the left. In fact, I worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to come up with effective policies serving the best interests of our country. I got very good at finding common solutions meeting the needs of both interest groups that remained faithful to the law, easy to understand, kept Americans safe and honored the humanity and the dignity of immigrants wanting to come to the United States seeking a better life. Eventually, I realized these skills I have learned, finding common ground and creating good policy were characteristics that would really serve me well as a Congresswoman. 

Tell us more about your health-care stance and why a public option is necessary. 

You know, we’re in the middle of a global health crisis. Right now, millions of Americans have contracted this virus — they all have a pre-existing condition. Due to the economic fallout related to this pandemic, 5.4 million Americans are without health insurance. It has never been more important to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions and to create an option for those who have lost their jobs, so they continue to have the health coverage they need, even if they are without employment. Furthermore, as we look to rebuild this economy, it’s going to be so crucial for businesses, small businesses in particular, to have an affordable way for their employees to get health insurance not related to employment. Before the Affordable Care Act, we remember what it was like for people who didn’t recieve coverage if they had a pre-existing condition. Specifically, young people had a hard time affording health care coverage. Because of the Affordable Care Act, individuals can stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old. Essentially, those just graduating from college and getting a foothold in the world receive the extra level of protection that they need. I absolutely believe we need to continue to expand on the gains of the Affordable Care Act to ensure that people are protected at this truly precarious time in our country.

You debated Republican opponent, Peter Meijer, last Thursday night. Coming out of that debate, how did you feel? Why are productive, amicable debates significant for voters? 

 I do think we had a very productive discussion. Debates are an essential way for voters to get their information. My Republican opponent Peter Meyer has made a choice to use deception and dishonesty in his advertising. He has run ads suggesting that I condone violence and rioting. I denounced the violence before Mr. Meyer did. So when we have a debate, I’m able to, you know, hold him directly accountable for those misstatements. There was an independent fact check run against his ads that found they were, I believe the exact quote was “intended to deceive.” They served as a disservice to the voters. This is the exact reason why we have an all-time low level of trust in our elected officials. People don’t trust our government because individuals, like my opponent, are lying. So, being able to have a debate where you can hold someone accountable for those misstatements is crucial. Voters need to hear directly from the representatives themselves and what they stand for.

How do you plan on tackling systemic racism and police brutality? And what legislation would you support?

Hillary: This is such an important question right now, and the nature of systemic racism makes it difficult to tackle with one policy solution or one legislative bill. This is why we call it systemic, it’s deeply embedded into our institutions. As a first step, we must recognize racism born out of unjust policing practices. It isn’t just about one rogue officer. It’s about a disparate system that brings black men, disproportionately, under the scrutiny of law enforcement that comes from wage disparities between African Americans and their white counterparts. It is at an all time high. It’s the lack of employment opportunities, affordable housing, education opportunities and implicit bias.

Legislators, who seek to tackle this, really, as an initial step, need to recognize how deeply rooted this is in our institutions. However, I don’t think this should stop us from addressing the exact issue in front of us. To that end, I would support a national chokehold ban, I would support mandating nationally body cams and dashboard cams and a national police registry, where individuals who were dismissed or punished from one police department would then have to register so they couldn’t then just transfer to another. It’s important to note here, I don’t support defunding the police. I have worked with far too many victims of domestic violence throughout my career to want to completely dismantle our public safety system. In fact, it’s crucial we keep our public safety, infrastructure and coast cohesive. The reforms I mentioned would actually take more funding, not less. We need deescalation training, implicit bias training. I would absolutely support funding measures to create those additional measures of oversight and accountability.

Interested in getting involved and learning more about Hillary? Here are some helpful links: 

Website: https://www.hillaryscholten.com/

Email: [email protected]

Volunteer: https://go.hillaryscholten.com/page/s/SCH_Volunteer

Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/helphillary#

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HillaryScholten

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scholten4congress/

Wajeeha Kamal is a freshman at Michigan State University in the James Madison and Honors College. She is majoring in political theory and constitutional democracy. Alongside, she plans to pursue a dual-degree in journalism. She is minoring in history. Wajeeha would like to go to law school for constitutional law and work for the ACLU or as a federal prosecutor. In her free-time, she enjoys researching true-crime, reading, and watching Netflix!
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