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Michigan Voters React To Impeachment Inquiry

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When the history of this last week is written, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin will have a footnote as one of the members who got the ball moving on the House's impeachment inquiry. The Michigan Democrat joined a group of fellow moderates in an op-ed calling for impeachment hearings after having previously resisted the idea. As NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Michigan, she represents a 50/50 district in a 50/50 state that was key to Trump's victory in 2016 and may be just as pivotal next year.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a centrist Democrat with a long resume in national security, explained her reasoning on impeachment on NPR's Morning Edition this week.

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ELISSA SLOTKIN: Listen; if these allegations are true, these are impeachable offenses.

GONYEA: She was asked what it might mean in a district long held by Republicans that she carried by less than two percentage points last fall.

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SLOTKIN: People in my district are divided on this issue. I get pulled over in the supermarket by people talking about it and saying go ahead and do it. And I have been pulled over by just as many people saying please don't do it.

GONYEA: This is downtown Brighton, Mich. This part of the district is suburban and traditional Republican. Jim Campbell works in an insurance office here, a Trump voter. Here's his take on the news of the week.

JIM CAMPBELL: It's probably more to do about nothing. I don't see it's going to be something that's going to impeach him. They may try to vote for impeachment, but the Senate will shut it down.

GONYEA: Campbell didn't vote for Slotkin but does give her credit for following her conscience, though he also thinks she faced considerable pressure from her party.

CAMPBELL: These stories just keep moving on, and it keeps the Democratic Party valid because here we had, you know, this election scandal. Now we've got this.

GONYEA: Two other Trump supporters I spoke to on the same block also downplayed the impact of the story, but they declined to give their names or be interviewed.

Now to the city of Lansing, the state capital and the most Democratic part of the district.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: You're welcome. Have a great day.

GONYEA: Not far from downtown is the Good Truckin' Diner. Twenty-eight-year-old Paris Williams, a waitress and photographer, sits at the counter with her mom.

PARIS WILLIAMS: You know, when it comes to actually breaking the law, like, at what point - are we not going to stand up and be like, this person shouldn't be our president? Someone's got to do something.

GONYEA: But she says even with all the other drama of the Trump presidency, this episode is different.

So this feels different?

P WILLIAMS: Yes. Yeah, I would say. But then again, I thought all the other things were different, too.

GONYEA: Like the Mueller report.

P WILLIAMS: Yes.

LISA WILLIAMS: This is unprecedented, though.

P WILLIAMS: I thought that was...

GONYEA: That's her mother, 52-year-old Lisa Williams, chiming in. She's an independent voter who runs a small business.

L WILLIAMS: This is absolutely unprecedented. So this is new territory for our country. So I'm - that's what I'm concerned about.

GONYEA: Winning independents is critical in this district. In the small town of Mason, 49-year-old Michael O'Connor is walking his dog near the picture-perfect county courthouse. He's an occupational therapist and a registered independent. O'Connor says he votes for Democrats and Republicans and did support Elissa Slotkin last year.

MICHAEL O'CONNOR: I think she's doing the right thing of just - again - and her background. Her background includes intelligence. And her - so she - I think she's looking at this objectively, regardless of Democrat or Republican.

GONYEA: And you understand why she hasn't been there until now?

O'CONNOR: Sure. I think so because I think nobody wanted, perhaps, to stick their neck out and say where they would fall on the issue.

GONYEA: O'Connor added, though, that he's worried Slotkin will pay a price politically for this. And that gets to the one thing that Trump supporters and detractors I talked to agreed on - that given his history so far, it's not certain this latest scandal will actually hurt the president.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Lansing, Mich. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.