Steve Friday, a progressive organizer from Dexter, recently launched his campaign for US Congress in Michigan’s 7th district, seeking to unseat Republican Tim Walberg. Friday is a social worker, a US Air Force veteran, and an activist with many progressive organizations, including Indivisible, Ann Arbor for Revolution, and Michigan for Revolution. Friday is the second Democrat to enter the race for the 7th. He will face off in the August primary against Gretchen Driskell, who tried to unseat Walberg in 2016.
At his campaign kickoff event, Friday spoke about the economic challenges many are facing in Michigan. He said, “I think everyone here at some point in their lives has struggled to make ends meet. Worried about their car breaking down. Worried about paying medical bills. How many people have used a credit card to pay a medical bill, because if you don’t pay that bill, they’re going to report you to the credit card companies and your credit score will go down?“
Friday is running on a unique slogan: “Human First.” Friday said this means setting aside partisan blinders, and letting go of the personal attacks and baggage that comes with politics. Just treating one another with respect.
“I think that no matter who you are, and no matter what you bring to the table, whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we all need to band together and work together to solve problems,” Friday said. “That’s what people are looking for.”
Friday’s first hurdle is the August primary against Gretchen Driskell. The primary pits the party’s rising progressive wing against its establishment wing.
Two years ago, Driskell’s campaign was considered one of the most promising by party insiders. She drew significant behind-the-scenes help from the Democratic Party in Michigan and nationally. A look at her recent donors this cycle shows significant establishment-democratic backing, with contributions from Loreen Powell Jobs (wife of the late Steve Jobs) and Democratic mega-donor Don Sussman. But it remains to be seen if the party establishment coalesces around her as they did in 2016. Instead, they may choose to focus on other races, like Michigan’s 8th and 11th congressional house seats.
That might be because despite strong backing in 2016, Driskell struggled to connect with voters. Walberg’s support of bad trade deals led her to attack him with the nickname “Trade Deal Tim” and urged voters to “Trade Him In.” The attacks fell flat. Her campaign spent over $2.5 million dollars in the race and lost by 15 points.
Friday said that he and other progressive activists spoke to Driskell in early 2017 as part an organizing effort prior to the Democratic Party convention. They told her they would support her if she ran on a progressive platform and refused to take corporate money. She said “we’ll talk about it,” but the conversation never happened. When asked about her stance on taking corporate money at the 7th congressional district meeting in Adrian last October she replied, “We’ll deal with that after I get elected.”
Sam Pernick, Liano Sharon, and Sue Vasquez contributed to this article