By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), 66, and Solomon Rajput, 28, are vying for U.S. Congress in the 12th District in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary.
Republican candidate Jeff Jones is unopposed. Dingell is running as the the incumbent and Rajput is a full-time medical student at University of Michigan taking a leave of absence to run for office.
The 12th District consists of Dearborn, Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Riverview, Southgate, Taylor, Trenton, Wyandotte, Ann Arbor, Brownstown Township, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Huron Township, Rockwood, Woodhaven, Ypsilanti and part of Dearborn Heights.
Both Democratic candidates were contacted and asked to answer questions about why they are interested in the seat.
Each of the following questions had a 120-word limit. Answers exceeding that were edited for brevity.
Question 1: Why are you seeking (re)election? What do you hope to accomplish if (re)elected?
Dingell: This is the most important election of our lifetime, and the work to improve the lives of residents of the 12th District is critical and far from over. We need to continue to overcome the hate and division in this country and build coalitions that will win the fight for access to quality healthcare, protections for clean air and water, and a level playing field for working families. I am running because I know we can accomplish more when working together on all of these issues, and to keep fighting to improve the lives of the people of the 12th District and all Michiganders.
Rajput: I am seeking election because our health system, our infrastructure, environment, and education system are crumbling around us. While wages remain stagnant, costs of college tuition and health care continue to rise. This has not changed because our representatives are bought and sold by these same corporations that have destroyed our environment, health systems, and refuse to raise our wages. My opponent is a member of the longest political dynasty in this nation’s history — one that has lasted over 87 years. My opponent has taken almost $2 million in corporate donations. I refuse to take a cent of corporate money, and I promise to only represent the interests of my constituents, not the interests of corporate executives.
Question 2: What are two important issues your constituents face and what will you do to address or improve those issues if (re)elected?
Dingell: There are so many important issues to be addressed at local, state, and federal levels, but some of my top priorities include healthcare and the environment. We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for its citizens, and we must make sure every American is able to see a doctor whenever they’re sick, regardless of income, and can easily afford their prescription drugs. Global climate change is the existential threat of our time, and we must protect our environment by transitioning to a 100 percent clean economy. Part of protecting our environment is safeguarding access to clean air and clean water by stopping PFAS contamination, air pollution, and other threats.
Rajput: Two of the biggest issues that my constituents face are housing insecurity as well as costs of higher education and student debt. In Ann Arbor, rent increased by 14 percent in 2018, compared to the national rate of 3 percent. This is unacceptable, and this is why I support federal rent control, unlike my opponent, to combat the problem of gentrification and housing insecurity. My district also has five universities and colleges, and this is why the cost of college is such a huge issue. I support tuition free public college, because I believe education is a human right. I also support eliminating student debt so young folks can more fully participate in our economy. My opponent does not support either of these measures.
Question 3: What education, experience or skills do you posses that make you a qualified candidate for the position you are seeking?
Dingell: I got my start in public policy advocating for women and children. If every child born in this country is given the same chance to succeed, then we will go a long way towards eliminating the inequalities in our society. Early in my career, I founded the National Women’s Health Research Center when I discovered that women weren’t included in federally funded research and advocated for greater awareness of women’s health issues, including breast cancer and women’s heart health. During my career in Congress, I have been a leader on protecting the Great Lakes, fighting for quality healthcare for every American, lowering prescription drug costs, reducing gun violence, and stopping climate change.
Rajput: First, I have been a grassroots organizer for years. I founded a group called the Michigan Resistance, which made thousands of phone calls to legislators across the state of Michigan to block bad bills in the state legislature. After Bernie Sanders lost the 2016 primary, I became one of the top three organizers in the state of Michigan for Hilary’s presidential campaign. Also, as a medical student, this gives me a unique perspective when drafting policy, one which is especially valuable in the midst of a pandemic.
Question 4: Why should people vote for you?
Dingell: I’m not interested in talking points or empty slogans, I’m interested in listening to residents across the 12th District and in getting real things done for my constituents and my country. It’s been my honor to represent this district for the last six years. Because of our work, Medicare For All received its first-ever hearings in the House of Representatives, we passed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and progress has been made on several other major pieces of legislation. The 12th District elected me because they know I’m a fighter and won’t back down on the issues that matter to this district, and I will continue to do so.
Rajput: People should vote for me because I promise not to take a cent of corporate money. I promise to vote based on the most ethical choice and what is best for our district, not based on party lines or public pressure. I promise to sign the Green New Deal the day I get into office, support the human rights of Palestinians, support Medicare for All and tuition free public college, as well as a wage increase for every minimum-wage worker in America.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])