Once in Congress, she was named Co-President of the 59-member Freshman Class of House Democrats. Congresswoman Stevens has passed a bipartisan bill on STEM education that was signed by the President, and is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology.
Since the pandemic struck, Congresswoman Stevens has gained national attention for working hard on behalf of all constituents in her district, including the crippled auto industry. Wall Street Journal senior auto writer John Stoll profiled her in a column extolling her commitment to individuals in her district as well as businesses encountering supply chain problems.
Congresswoman Stevens, in a Zoom conversation with Brunswick’s Patti Solis Doyle and Katharine Crallé, speaks about which approaches from her successful campaign are helping her now cut through the noise in an election year and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what she learned during the 2008 auto industry rescue about the importance of cooperating and adapting during times of prolonged crisis.
In less than two years in Congress, you’ve experienced the longest government shutdown in history, the impeachment trial of a US president and now a pandemic. As a leader of the freshman class, how have you stayed focused while lurching from crisis to crisis?
The other day I was on one of my longer trail walks and it dawned on me: It’s not just those events. There’s so many more. There were tough votes on immigration, votes around war powers resolutions, around the Equality Act, which again were largely on partisan lines.
Our incumbents will say—those who are sophomore members, junior members and so on—that this was really the freshman class that came to save America. We were also the never-evers. I have never held office before. By and large, that is the makeup of the class—people from various professions and fields bringing their talent and dogged commitment to their community, to their country, to say, “I wanted something better than this.”
One of the things that I’m planning for is, how do we keep this majority for a long time to come? Not just in the two-year cycles that we all operate in, but how do we seize hold of what this first term has represented and make this a true moment of reform for us as a nation, through our legislative governance? We will be creating the next great society, coming out of this pandemic period, coming out of some of the pain and polarization that is sometimes represented in general politics today. I don’t want to point fingers. We are going to do that work.
You were elected to represent Michigan’s 11th District as a newcomer to elected office, a millennial Democrat in a historically red district and the first woman to hold the seat. How did you reach your constituents? What are some lessons you’ve taken forward from your campaign?
I launched [my campaign] so early and everyone was like, “OK. You’re going to run for Congress in this Republican district that’s been in Republican hands since before the Moon landing. Good luck.”
People in Michigan were energized. All sorts of new activism and political engagement. Talk about never-evers. The ones who elected the never-evers were the people who’ve never been involved in politics in their life. All of a sudden, they’re knocking on doors, they’re going to organizing meetings, they’re doing women’s marches, they’re speaking out, they’re exercising their voice and they’re getting involved in the off-year elections.
People would ask me how they can help me. I’m thinking, “Well, I’ve got a splash page for a website. I’m working out of my house. Why don’t you have me over to your house? Why don’t you just invite somebody? Invite someone in your family, maybe it’s Dad, who didn’t vote the way you thought they should have in this last election. And we don’t need to make it a food fight or anything like that. Let me serve as the middle person and talk to Dad. I truly made friends with so many people who were traditional Republican voters who voted for the president. I would go up to the guys, even in the Trump hats, and I would shake their hands. I’d say, “Hey, I’m Haley Stevens, and I’m going to be your next member of Congress.”