There may be a significant reason why Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, is so hesitant to show up in a public forum in his own district.
After all, it was at a town hall in February of last year that the citizens of our district were introduced to the person who is now running as his opponent, Dr. Rob Davidson. For a good 15 minutes, Davidson and Huizenga debated on the question of health care.
After that experience, many who were in attendance encouraged Davidson to run against Huizenga for Congress. And that’s what Rob has been doing.
He has been out meeting people and knocking on doors. The sheer number of public events he has held has been unheard of in our district. On Aug. 27, Davidson challenged Huizenga to a series of seven debates, one in each county which makes up our district. It was all crickets from the Huizenga office, but Davidson plowed ahead — eager to engage with the citizens of our area. On Sept. 10, instead of the hoped-for debate with Huizenga, Davidson hosted a town hall meeting to a standing-room only crowd in Holland. He held a second town hall on Sept. 29 in Kentwood.
Rep. Huizenga has had ample time during congressional recesses to meet with his constituents. However, in the absence of a public forum, he appears to spend his time primarily cultivating his donor base. He has not given us, the citizens in the Second District, the opportunity to ask him questions in public about the choices he has made while supposedly representing us in Congress.
If I had the opportunity to ask Rep. Huizenga some questions, I would have a few that immediately come to mind. Why does he talk so much about how it is Congress who makes laws for immigration and then fail to actually do anything productive to solve our broken system and protect families? Why did it take him weeks to speak out against the policy of forced family separation? Why did he support the president’s original ban on refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries? Why is it that he has accepted over $1 million in corporate dollars, including a significant amount from banks that are not even in our district? How is he ensuring we don’t lose the regulations put in place after the Great Recession to protect our country from risky decisions in the financial sector? Why hasn’t Huizenga worked for common-sense bipartisan gun reform, advocating for policies that enjoy broad support across the political spectrum, including universal background checks and red flag laws that keep firearms away from domestic abusers?
And the question I have that hits particularly to home is what exactly is he doing to fix our struggling health care system? Sure, he sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but when the American Health Care Act replacement failed, it seems he has not done much else. While Congress has been in a state of inaction, health care premiums continue to rise. West Michigan Christians who serve on church boards have seen first-hand how the continued increase in health care premiums for clergy and lay employees has continued to make it harder to devote a congregation’s financial resources to the important ministry to which we are called. As a committed Christian himself, I’m curious how Huizenga is working to alleviate this burden which every congregation, church board and pastor feels.
It has been reported that Rep. Huizenga has finally accepted Dr. Davidson’s invitation to debate. Our own Grand Haven Tribune secured this agreement, with a debate planned for Oct. 30 — one week before the General Election. Another debate is planned earlier, on Oct. 15 in Newaygo County. I suppose there is nothing like waiting to the last minute.
No matter what political views you hold, if you are able to attend one of these debates, I would encourage you to do so. If not, try to find a way to engage them online. Listen to what each candidate says. Ask yourself who will better represent all the residents of our district.
And Rep. Huizenga, if you’re reading this, maybe try holding at least one public town hall before the election so that your constituents can ask you the questions that will be on their hearts and minds when they go to the polls Nov. 6.
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, Tribune community columnist, serves as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven. The views expressed in this column are his own personal views alone and do not reflect the views of the congregation he serves.