Haley Stevens is a former Obama administration official running as a Democrat for a hotly contested open seat in the U.S. House representing Michigan’s 11th District. As chief of staff of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Auto Task Force, she played an important role in the industry bailout during the Great Recession, something that should win her points in this district just northwest of Detroit, the nation’s traditional auto capitol.
Stevens, age 33, jumped into the race in April after controversy engulfed the incumbent representative, David Trott. One of his aides was caught on a “hot mic” calling angry constituents crowding a town hall “un-American.” Seizing the moment, Stevens launched a Crowdpac crowdfunding page seeking pledges for a potential run. It took off, bringing in nearly $25,000 in pledges in about 3 weeks and catapulting her into the race. Stevens currently leads the Democratic pack in fundraising with a total of $524,300 in reported contributions as of Sept. 30.
The race became even more dramatic in September, when Trott announced he would not seek re-election. With no incumbent, the race suddenly became competitive, and a host of Republican and Democratic candidates jumped into a race now widely seen as a toss up. While the district has a strong Republican history and Inside Elections rates it “lean Republican,” both the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have rated it a toss-up.
In the contest for the Democratic nomination, Stevens is facing lawyer Dan Haberman, State Rep. Tim Greimel, businessman Suneel Gupta and Fayrouz Saad, another woman and former Obama administration official. (We are also following Saad’s campaign.) The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named the district one of its initial targets to flip in 2018, which means the winner of the primary on August 7 is likely to receive crucial funding and support from the committee in the run up to the general election.
The nominee will face the winner of the Republican primary, which is being contested by Kerry Bentivolio, who formerly held the district’s seat in Congress; Lena Epstein (whose campaign we are following as well); Kristine Bonds, the daughter of a former TV anchor; and former State Reps. Kurt Heise, Rocky Raczkowski and Klint Kesto.
Stevens was born and raised in Oakland County, Mich., northwest of the Detroit metropolitan area. She attended American University as both an undergraduate and graduate student, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s in social policy and philosophy. Her career took her to Chicago and Washington, D.C., but she remained professionally and personally connected to her home state, she says, where she returned to live earlier this year.
From 2009 to 2011, Stevens served on the Auto Task Force team that helped return the auto industry to financial stability and saved 211,000 Michigan jobs. She then worked as a policy advisor at the Economic Development Administration within the Commerce Department and on the agency’s National Digital Engineering Manufacturing Consortium.
Before returning to Michigan, Stevens was in Chicago working to create what she describes as the country’s first online training program for digital manufacturing and launching a science, technology, engineering and math education program for middle and high school students that teaches digital manufacturing concepts and processes. She worked on the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns in 2007 and 2008 and, before that, on the re-election campaigns of Senator Debbie Stabenow and Governor Jennifer Granholm.