By Stephen Jones
The race to replace Congressman Sander Levin is in full swing in the 9th Congressional District. Levin announced his retirement from Congress in December after serving for 35 years. Candidates from all sides have their sights set on the open seat, including Levin’s son, Andy Levin. We asked all the candidates in the 9th Congressional District why they deserve the Chaldean community’s support in this race. The 9th District covers Berkley, Clawson, Center Line, Eastpointe, Ferndale, Fraser, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Madison Heights, Mt. Clemens, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Roseville, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Warren Bloomfield Charter Township, Clinton Charter Township, Royal Oak Charter Township, Southfield Charter Township, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, and Franklin.
We posed the following question to each candidate, why should the Chaldean community support you?”
Andy Levin is the son of sitting U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin and the former head of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. Levin is the founder of a clean energy business and directed the No Worker Left Behind program, a worker training program that provided services to 162,000 Michigan residents.
“My family has always fought for the Chaldean community in Congress, and I promise to carry on that tradition,” Levin said. “We have to address the outrageous violations of Chaldean’s rights in Iraq, the attacks on Christian villages, the stripping of people’s rights. These are issues that have to be central to our policy in Iraq and around the world. I’ve worked on human rights my whole life, and those are issues that I will continue to work on.”
“Secondly, the Chaldean community and the Jewish community have always been really close. I think our traditions of immigrating to this country, creating a lot of our own small businesses, working our way up through hard work, and the importance of family contribute to the closeness of our communities. I’m a business owner, and I work with a lot of Chaldeans to retrofit their buildings in water efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy. I know what it feels like to run a small business and to pay all the taxes that you have to pay as a sole proprietor. I’m going to be there for them as a member of Congress to advance the economic and social interests of the Chaldean community right here in the 9th District.
Finally, the Chaldean community is an immigrant community, and I’ve worked on immigration policy for over 30 years ever since the Immigration Control and Reform Act was passed in 1986. Another tradition of my dad’s office that I will continue is protecting immigrants and fighting for immigrant rights.”
Ellen Lipton served three terms representing the 27th District in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2009 to 2014. Before her six years in the legislature, Lipton worked as a patent attorney specializing in medicine and technology. She is a founding member and president of the Michigan Promise Zone Association, a statewide organization providing access to post-secondary education and free college tuition for high school graduates.
“As a State Representative, I used my position on the Appropriations Committee to ensure adequate funding for programs that affect immigrant communities,” Lipton said. “I fought to increase dollars dedicated to ESL programs and helped expand state funding for community mental health services, which we had found were inadequate in servicing our multicultural populations. In Congress, I look forward to working with the Chaldean Community on access to affordable housing, job placement and training programs, and educational opportunities for young people and adults looking to further their education. I believe Michigan thrives when our immigrant communities succeed. In Washington, I’ll ensure that my Constituent Services staff is engaged in working with the Chaldean community, and I will always be available to my Chaldean constituents to work together to make our district a better place to live.”
Martin Brook is running this race in addition to his role as a full-time employment law attorney. He was a Trustee on the Bloomfield Hills School Board from 2005 through 2010. In 2009, he was selected by his colleagues to the position of President of the Board, where he led the school district through intense legal battles, a bond proposal, and the selection of a new superintendent.
“The Chaldean community is a wonderful immigrant success story,” Brook said. “It’s a wonderful family story, community story and story of economic success. I’m a small businessman myself, so I respect small businesses. I’m a member of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. I speak for them around the state, providing training and programs for employers to become better employers. I sit on their education, health and welfare committee, and help define their legislative priorities. I have a record of supporting small-business owners and trying to advance their interests.”
“Also, an important path to success in America is education. I value and respect education and its social/economic power. That is why I ran for and served on the Bloomfield Hills School Board - during that time, I interacted with many in the Chaldean community and came to see our shared respect for the important role education plays in everyone’s success story. I also respect the story of immigration. It is America’s story. I’m appalled by the arrests and detention of immigrants pushed by the Trump administration. The immigrant community is core to the success of the tri-county area, and everything we do should aim to enhance the immigrant experience.”
Candius Stearns is the lone candidate in the Republican Party, and belongs to an immigrant family of Polish, German and, through marriage, Greek decent. Stearns most recently held the position of Treasurer in the 9th GOP district. In 2007, Candius Stearns founded DFB TPA Services LLC, a sister company to DFBenefits. In January 2016, Candius combined her group benefits practice with Mason- McBride Corporation (MMC), one of Michigan’s largest privately owned independent insurance and financial services organizations.
Stearns believes she shares a few core principles with the Chaldean community, including faith, family, community, and country.
“Our economic tools, our healthcare system and our education quality have lagged behind much of America’s progress for most people,” Stearns said. “It’s my commitment to address these top priorities with 21st century solutions and rethink how these resources can better enhance the quality of life for our fellow citizens. Sterling Heights is experiencing an incredible positive impact from the Chaldean Community Foundation (CCF). Its retail and business community provide my hometown of Sterling Heights with the old-fashioned entrepreneur spirit that America was built on, as well as people who are not ashamed of working with their hands as I have done, growing up as a daughter of a dairy farmer. I welcome these new citizens who work towards the opportunity to share in the American Dream of prosperity for all. I support helping the community find work in skilled trades, as well as higher education which provides a hand up towards self-sufficient lives and much-needed workers in our community. I support an exciting new development plan, a $30 million multifamily housing project, to assist the neediest among the community.”
John McDermott is running for the Green Party. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting, and he earned his J.D. from the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School. He believes he can be the change that people need to see in government, stating “the federal government needs a major overhaul and a return to its constitutional origins and limitations.” “I knew many Chaldean merchants when I was a commercial realtor in Detroit and a Wayne County resident,” McDermott said. “The Chaldean community’s success and prosperity in metro Detroit is an American success story.” The long-term fate of the district has been the subject of speculation recently. Michigan’s slow-moving population growth means the state could lose another congressional seat following the 2020 U.S. Census, and the 9th Congressional District might be a target for dissolution by 2022. The primaries for Michigan’s 9th Congressional District Race will be held August 7, and the general election will be held on November 6.