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It has been 18 years since a Democrat held the U.S. House seat in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District.
Even so, the race between political newcomer Elissa Slotkin and incumbent Mike Bishop is viewed as a bellwether in the fight for control of the U.S. House in November.
Slotkin, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst, is looking to unseat the two-term Republican congressman, who received 56 percent of the vote in his 2016 re-election bid. The district, which stretches from north of Detroit to the state capital Lansing, voted for President Trump with 51 percent of the vote.
One argument routinely made against Slotkin — and emphasized in a recent radio ad by Bishop — is her weaker ties to the district.
"What do we know about D.C. insider Elissa Slotkin? Not much, since Elissa Slotkin just parachuted into the district to run for Congress. We know that Elissa Slotkin was recruited by Nancy Pelosi and sent here from Washington. Slotkin doesn’t own a home in Michigan, and her only voting record … for herself, just a few days ago in the Michigan primary. Elissa Slotkin even admitted that she doesn’t know our area."
(Audio of Slotkin's voice) "I did not know the outline of the district…"
"Doesn’t know the district? Then how can Elissa Slotkin know us?"
Here, we are focusing on her Michigan ties and the claim that she "doesn’t know" the district’s boundaries. She's not as much of an outsider as the ad says.
Slotkin’s campaign calls her a third-generation Michigan native. Slotkin was born in New York, but her family returned to Michigan when she was 4 years old, the campaign said. Slotkin grew up on her family’s farm in Holly, which is located in the 8th district in Oakland County.
Her great-grandfather established her family’s meat business called Hygrade Foods, which opened its Detroit headquarters in 1949. The business created a number of foods, but most famously the Ballpark Frank, first sold at Tiger Stadium.
Slotkin studied at Cornell University in New York and then went to graduate school at Columbia University. She served three tours in Iraq as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst before taking on various roles in Washington in the intelligence and defense departments during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Slotkin moved back to her family’s farm from D.C. in the spring of 2017 after her national security post ended with the Obama administration. She runs a small consulting business there called Pinpoint Consulting, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The ad claims that Slotkin doesn’t own a home in Michigan. That is accurate, but leaves out some important context.
Slotkin does not own her family’s farm herself — the deed is in the name of her father, Curtis Slotkin, Oakland County property records show. Slotkin's father and stepmother live about 30 minutes from the farm, in the Detroit suburbs of Oakland County.
The farm was purchased by Slotkin’s grandfather and passed down to her father when her grandfather passed away, said Slotkin campaign spokeswoman Laura Epstein.
"When Elissa’s parents pass," Epstein says, "the property will then be in her name — in line with family tradition."
Bishop’s ad asserts that Slotkin has only voted in Michigan once, and that was in her own primary.
That statement, according to state records, is correct.
Michigan Secretary of State Elections Bureau records show that Slotkin has only voted once in the state, and that was in the August primary.
The audio clip of Slotkin talking about the district’s outlines is from a town hall event sponsored by the NAACP Lansing chapter, according to Bishop campaign consultant Stu Sandler.
It is clear the audio is clipped. Slotkin said she "did not know the outline of the district," even though the ad's retort of "doesn't" makes the listener think she still doesn't know.
We were unable to obtain a full recording from that event. However, at a campaign volunteer event on July 7, Slotkin can be heard saying something similar, that she "didn’t know, probably a year and a half ago, the exact boundaries of the district." She then goes on to review the district’s outlines.
Epstein told PolitiFact that Slotkin frequently introduces herself by giving a lay of the land at the beginning of an event and sometimes starts by talking about the district lines.
Bishop’s ad portrays Slotkin as a "Washington insider" who parachuted into the district to run for the U.S. House. It also utilized an audio clip to allege she doesn’t know the outlines of the district.
On some of the technical claims, the ad is accurate. Slotkin has only voted once in the state (in her own primary race), and she is not a Michigan homeowner.
However, the ad leaves out important details about her childhood background in the district, and takes her words at a campaign event out of context. The home where she lives is owned by her parents on her family farm, and is slated to be passed down to her.
The ad's soundbite is clipped to make it sound like Slotkin admitted to not knowing the outlines of her own district. A similar Slotkin statement shows she may not have known the boundaries before moving back to the state, but she does now.
We rate the claim Half True.
Update, Sept. 24, 2018: This report was updated to include Slotkin's birth in New York. The rating remains the same.
New York Times, "Michigan U.S. House 8th District Results: Mike Bishop Wins," Accessed Sep. 14, 2018
Mike Bishop’s campaign ad, Accessed Sep. 11, 2018
The Detroit News, "Bishop's seat in Congress deemed 'toss up,’" July 13, 2018
The Detroit News, "Bishop's re-election fight seen as a bellwether for control of U.S. House," June 11, 2018
Newsweek, "Not Your Average Democrat: Who is Elissa Slotkin?" June 9, 2018
Oakland County Government, "Register of Deeds," Accessed Sep. 14, 2018
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Accessed Sep. 14, 2018
Michigan Secretary of State Elections Bureau, Accessed Sep. 14, 2018
ABC 7 Detroit, "Here's a look at Michigan's gerrymandered congressional districts," Aug. 1, 2018
Michigan.gov, "Michigan Congressional Districts map," accessed Sep. 17, 2018
YouTube, "Elissa Slotkin July 7th 2018 Campaign Volunteer Event," Accessed Sep. 17, 2018
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