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The strange race in Michigan's new 6th Congressional District

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Michigan’s re-drawn 6th Congressional district has a popular, incumbent democrat seeking re-election and a republican challenger that is, for lack of a better term, an elusive candidate. Current 12th district representative, Debbie Dingell, is ever-present on the campaign trail while GOP primary winner, Whittney Williams, is nowhere to be found.

“Debbie Dingell!” (people cheering)

On a recent October afternoon, Dingell was attending yet another event, sharing her policy stances on everything from a demand for reproductive rights, more stringent environmental regulations, and a call for greater civility in the country.

Debbie Dingell
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Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
“Because I really do believe that there are people who are trying to divide us with fear and hatred and attack the fundamental roots of our democracy."

Redistricting had convinced Dingell to move to Ann Arbor from her longtime home in Dearborn. The new 6th district covers all of Washtenaw County and portions of western Wayne County. And this appearance in her new district was not Dingell’s first event of the day. She had already been to four others across the district.

There would be four more before the day ended. It’s a schedule she’s kept up almost every weekend since the primary.

Her Republican challenger, Whittney Williams, meantime, has been virtually invisible.

“The Google subscriber you have called is not available. Please leave a message after the tone.”

That was our 8th unsuccessful attempt to reach out to the GOP candidate from Canton. Williams failed to respond to more than a dozen calls.

A stop at Williams’ officially listed campaign address turned out to be a Post Office box at a UPS office. The League of Women Voters of Washtenaw County and officials at Washtenaw County Republican Headquarters say they’ve not been able to contact Williams. Virtually all media reports on the race indicate Williams has not responded to any number of interview requests. And, her campaign website doesn’t ask for any donations. Instead, it refers visitors to a number of charitable organizations.

So, who is Whittney Williams?

(nat sound) "Hi, my name is Whittney Williams."

To learn anything about her policies you have to return to a campaign video Williams recorded in 2020 when she ran unsuccessfully in the 11th Congressional district. In that video, Williams dons a red MAGA hat and describes herself as a proud immigrant who fights for conservative values.

Williams is a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan and, in the video says she spent more than a decade in American illegally, before becoming a citizen. And yet, in that old video, she says:

"As a pro-life conservative who supports strong border security, I want to fight back against the radical left socialist agenda."

Ahead of the primary, Williams raised just under $12,000. Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports show Williams spent just a few hundred dollars on the primary from April to July with only one $450 expenditure in August on a company called, “Signs on the Cheap.”

Williams won that race by eight percentage points. After the primary, Williams stopped posting on her campaign Facebook page.

Dingell says she doesn’t want to debate issues with an opponent who doesn’t appear to be running, but will continue taking her message directly to voters right through Election Day.

“We need comprehensive immigration reform. It just keeps getting kicked down the road. We need to remember we’re a land of immigrants, but national security has to be fundamentally independent. We’re a border state."

Despite an opponent who doesn’t appear to be actively campaigning, Dingell says she doesn’t take any election for granted and will continue to work to gain support.

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Cathy Shafran is WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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