CIA Analyst-Turned-Rep. Elissa Slotkin is Putting Pocketbook Issues Before Politics

December 31, 2018
Updated 2mo ago

By Justin Chermol and Megan Pratz

Elissa Slotkin is ready to swap the farmland of Michigan for the gridlock of Washington.

Come Jan. 3, the incoming Democratic congresswoman, a former CIA analyst, will represent Michigan’s 8th District, which President Trump won by a nearly 7-point margin in 2016.

Slotkin's upset victory over the Republican incumbent Mike Bishop reflected her constituents' dissatisfaction with their leadership and "the perception of chaos" in Washington.

“I think people in general feel unheard, unrepresented ー that the process needs major overhaul, and I think a lot of people call into question both parties,” Slotkin told Cheddar’s J.D. Durkin.

A third-generation Michigander, Slotkin grew up on a farm in the town of Holly. She lives on that farm today, and has seen firsthand the impact of one Trump policy that is also frustrating locals: tariffs.

“We lease all of our land to a soybean farmer and I think the tariffs have been a really destabilizing factor for a lot of our farmers,” Slotkin said. “I think they're hoping things get better, but the current situation sort of feels like the cure for the disease is worse than the disease itself when it comes to these retaliatory tariffs.

China, the world's largest importer of soy, resumed buying soybeans from U.S. farmers after a trade truce was struck with President Trump at a meeting on Dec. 1. On Saturday, Trump tweeted on Saturday that he had a “long and very good call” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that a "deal is moving along very well."

In August, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented a farmer assistance program, authorizing up to $12 billion in relief to farmers affected by trade with China.

But Slotkin said the instability has been tough on farmers, and government assistance is an unpopular solution.

“A lot of people don't love the idea that they have to receive aid,” Slotkin said. These are people who have made it their entire lives by working hard ー they don't want assistance.”

As for the drama transfixing Washington around Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation, the incoming congresswoman is not rushing to judgment, and said she will "read every page" of the special report before making up her mind about impeachment.

“I did not get elected to Congress, and I would not be doing my job, if I supported a truly just political act of trying to impeach him that ended up with him still in office and wasted 18 months of time where we could be getting things done,” she said.

Slotkin spent 14 years as a career national security officer in the CIA, under former President George W. Bush and former President Obama. As a young CIA officer, Slotkin said she came to respect Mueller, who was director of the FBI at the time.

"I'm a big believer in Bob Mueller," she said.

As she prepares to enter Congress, Slotkin credits her success to the pragmatism of her community and the manner in which she conducted her campaign.

“I think part of the reason we were elected was because people feel like they want a different generation that works harder and thinks bigger and never forgets that they are public servants.”