East Lansing — Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney urged hundreds of mid-Michigan voters Tuesday to support her Democratic colleague, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, describing her as a candidate who would “put country above party.”
The stump speech in support of Slotkin at East Lansing High School’s gym marked the Wyoming Republican’s first time campaigning for a Democratic candidate.
“If we want to ensure this revival of our republic, we have to walk away from politics as usual,” Cheney said to group of about 500. “… If the people in our party are not doing the job they need to do, then we’re going to vote for the people in the other party.”
The country needs two strong parties and “substantive debates,” Cheney said.
“But we never get to … those debates if we elect people who will not respect the outcomes of elections,” Cheney said.
Cheney noted the first Michigan candidate she helped campaign for was former President Gerald Ford, a Republican, when her father, Dick Cheney, served as his chief of staff. “I think that Gerry Ford would be supporting Elissa Slotkin,” she said.
More:GOP’s Liz Cheney endorses Michigan Democrat Slotkin in a first
Neither Cheney nor Slotkin mentioned the congresswoman’s Republican opponent in the 7th House District, state Sen. Tom Barrett, during their remarks. Both largely focused on the need to change politics as usual in light of threats to democracy.
Slotkin acknowledged that she and Cheney differed on “substantive policy issues” and that the impact of Cheney’s support in the 7th District was largely unknown. Most individuals in the 7th District are focused on “kitchen table issues,” Slotkin said, but argued democracy is akin to the house holding the kitchen table.
“There is nothing we cannot handle when we don’t work together,” Slotkin said. “But here’s the thing, I’m a Democrat. I can’t fix the Republican Party for them. Only they can do that.
“And until then, with your help, we are going to make clear that when they put up extreme candidates up and down our ballot, we will beat them and beat them and beat them.”
Cheney, a well-known critic of former President Donald Trump, endorsed Slotkin late last month in her first formal endorsement of a Democrat for office. Slotkin told media Tuesday the endorsement dated back to the House’s last voting day, when Cheney approached her and asked her if there was anything she could do to help.
Cheney endorsed a second Democrat prior to the rally Tuesday, when she announced support for Democratic state Rep. Tim Ryan for the Ohio Senate over Republican J.D. Vance.
Slotkin and Barrett’s race is one of the most expensive in the nation, nearing $27 million in late October. In an Oct. 18-20 poll of 400 likely voters in the 7th House District, Slotkin lead Barrett 47%-41% with about 8% of voters undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
More:Slotkin vs. Barrett: Country’s most expensive House race is a close one
Barrett has responded to Cheney’s endorsement of Slotkin by describing them as like-minded “establishment war hawks” who stand together because he opposes their “endless wars.” Barrett, an Iraq veteran, retired from the Army earlier this year after 22 years. He’s also criticized the House Armed Services Committee, on which both lawmakers sit, for holding no top leaders in the Biden administration accountable for the botched withdraw from Afghanistan, including the deaths of 13 American service members in August 2021.
“I’m proud of my service to my country, and I never expected a day in my life after deploying for Dick Cheney’s war that his daughter would come to my district in the closing days of this campaign to endorse my opponent in the race that is going to decide which party is going to control Congress,” Barrett said Monday.
Barrett has been endorsed by Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman, who defeated Cheney in her August primary. Hageman ran against Cheney with Trump’s support and campaigned in part on Cheney’s work on the Jan. 6 panel. She has echoed Trump’s rhetoric in calling the 2020 election “rigged.”
Barrett hasn’t gone that far, though he has said he has “legitimate” concerns and questions about how the election took place and introduced legislation to require photo ID to vote in Michigan. In January 2021, Barrett was one of 11 Michigan Republican senators who signed onto a letter to Congress asking for a joint session “to pursue every available option and procedure to examine the credible allegations of election-related concerns surrounding fraud and irregularities.”
Barrett has dismissed the suggestion that Cheney’s endorsement was related to his response to the 2020 election, noting her endorsement statement made no mention of that. But a Cheney spokesman this week said Barrett’s take was inaccurate, calling him an election denier and saying Barrett continues to push Trump’s claims “to this day.”
“Liz believes these issues are grave and serious. This is not a game. We cannot give power to people who won’t respect the outcome of elections,” said Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler.