The Jewish News: Soifer Shares Insights on Night One of Debates

July 31, 2019

By Corrie Colf

Michigan native Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), is back in Detroit to witness the Democratic Debates and provide insight on how night one played out for the hopeful presidential candidates.

During the 2018 midterm elections, JDCA endorsed Democrats Haley Stevens and Elissa Slotkin — both were elected to the House of Representatives and serve Michigan’s 11th and 8thDistricts.

What was your take on night one?

I thought it was a great demonstration of the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and policies that the Democratic candidate field brings to this election. With 20 candidates there are a wide range of views, and I think that is our strength. Democrats and the American people clearly want to see the policies and discussions being had on that debate stage, and I think it was a great night for not only Democrats but also Americans.

I don’t want to highlight any one candidate over the other, but to me, everyone had at least one good moment last night. I would have liked to hear more from some of the candidates, but it just goes to show that the ones who were more forceful to get their points out were more successful. They all demonstrated what they uniquely bring to the table as candidates.

What issues stood out to you the most?

Gun control and gun safety was a very important issue that came out of the debate and provided a good discussion. This is an issue that for too long Republicans have neglected to do anything about despite the fact that this epidemic of gun violence has really plagued our community through our schools and places of worship. It was good to hear the candidates both acknowledge that and talk about a range of actions that can be taken to deal with this epidemic. I think Americans want to know that there are public officials, elected officials and quite a few candidates ready to take action.

I also was happy to see so many of the candidates talk about the reality of the rise of white supremacy and white nationalism in our country. Yes, it was not necessarily framed in the context of the Jewish community, but we are not the only community that has been impacted. It was framed in a context of the president’s recent racist remarks, and as a Jew, there is no questions that I was outraged and appalled by the racism — I was appalled that he used our community and used Israel as a shield and an excuse for his racism. I was glad to hear many of the candidates, if not all, make a comment acknowledging that this is unacceptable, and something needs to be done.

Halie Soifer at the Detroit Democratic Debate at the Fox TheatreCourtesy of Sam Crystal

What issues are you hoping to hear more about during tonight’s debate?

I thought that the issues that were raised last night — healthcare, race relations, gun safety, and the economy — are the top issues for the American voters. Based on polling we know that the Jewish community is voting mostly on domestic policy issues. I thought it was very important that the candidates cover these top issues. I am looking forward to see how the candidates handle these topics tonight.

What would resonate most with independent voters to shift Michigan back to Democratic?

I’m from Michigan and grew up here, so I still consider myself a Michigander. But if you look at 2018 and why Democrats did so well in this state, its because they were speaking to issues Michiganders care about. Infrastructure was very important to Michigan voters and you can see that with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s victory. Infrastructure was one issue that Democrats were hopeful they could work on with President Donald Trump. Michigan voters who voted for him in 2016 and prioritize infrastructure can look at his record and see that nothing has gotten done. The reason for that is clear, and that is because he has refused to work with Democrats on this issue and compromise to come up with something that is bi-partisan and in the best interest of the American people. He has failed to deliver on issues of importance to Michigan voters.