With the election less than a week away, you’re probably seeing a lot of TV ads for the race in Michigan’s 7th congressional district. We invited Republican incumbent Tim Walberg and Democratic challenger Gretchen Driskell for an interview. Only Driskell, the former mayor of Saline, talked with WKAR’s Reginald Hardwick.
The 7th congressional district includes a portion of the city of Lansing, the city of Jackson and all of the counties bordering Indiana and Ohio. She started by explaining why she believes her seat will go from red to blue.
DRISKELL: This is a state that went for a change. In my district, they wanted to see representation in Washington that cares about the issues at the local level. I have a background at working at the local level. I was mayor of a small town for 14 years. I went through as a local elected official the potential closing of a Ford plant in my town. We did lose other business. We were able to keep the Ford plant but I think this is a change vote. People are still looking for people that understand what's happening in the hometowns. And making sure we have representation that provides opportunity and understands economic challenges that people are going through right now.
HARDWICK: How as a member of Congress can you ensure the water is safe to drink in Michigan?
DRISKELL: There's a very important role that the government has at all levels - at the local, state and federal level. I believe that we need a partner in Washington, DC that is vested in making sure we have good government oversight in investment and fixing things. Number one - preventing things from happening, so supporting the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. In my district - there is challenges with the waters in drinking. Also the algae blooms in Lake Erie are very, very significant. This is something that we need a partner in Congress that understands and supports investing in drinking water systems and protection, making sure we protect our citizens from pollution.
HARDWICK: We have a very divisive tone in this country right now. In Congress how would you affect that?
DRISKELL: Well I think I would bring a voice of sanity. Actually, I was non-partisan for 20 years. I worked with and have the endorsement of the two previous congressmen - a Republican and a Democrat. I strongly believe in civility and respecting each other and listening to understand each other. We have a diverse country and a diverse state and the district is very diverse. I support that. I think we need to work together to solve challenges. And I would be very interested in working in a bipartisan way. I spent most of my time as a public servant as a non-partisan elected official. I never thought about who came from where. I didn't even know on my city council who was Republican or Democrat. I just worked with the people in the community to make sure we addressed the challenges and opportunities and took care of that not in a political way. We all have the same goals. We want schools that educate our kids, we want clean water, we want healthy communities and we want opportunities for a good future for all of us. And those are things that we can all agree on and worked towards.
HARDWICK: What is the biggest message you have for the voters in the 7th congressional district and why they should pick you?
DRISKELL: I've been there. I know what its like to be in economic challenging times and good times. And I know we have a lot of good opportunities. I've been a local voice at the community level and I understand how to work hard. I'm accountable to the people. I was elected 7 times as mayor. There's a lot of accountability there. When you go out to the grocery store to get a gallon of milk and it takes about an hour to get home because you running into a lot of folks that have issues and concerns about what's happening in their community. I understand that. It's personal for me that we do a good job to represent the people in our district. And that there's a lot of need out there for somebody as a public servant that understands issues and will work hard and be accountable and most importantly listen and represent those views.
Editor's Note: WKAR News also offered an interview opportunity to the Republican incumbent, Rep. Tim Walberg. He did not respond to our offer.